Will the Oilers move?

Yes, this is another edition of the always-open THN mailbag. What, you thought I wouldn’t be around another Friday to deal with your inquiries? C’mon, I thought you knew me better than that. Thanks as always for your submissions.

Hi Adam! Much respect for your work. I am a huge Oilers fan and like many am very concerned with the problems at hand while Daryl Katz is attempting to solidify a new arena deal. What are your thoughts? I find it hard to believe the NHL would consider moving a team with so much history, however I am still concerned. Do you feel like the Oilers’ future in Edmonton is in jeopardy?
Josh Black, Edmonton

HI Josh!

Like most people, I saw Katz’s Seattle sojourn to be a transparent scare tactic directed at Edmonton city council. Katz has moved the financial goalposts on the building of a new arena to replace the decrepit Rexall Place and clearly thinks local taxpayers should be falling all over themselves to pay for it.

That brinkmanship approach would have worked easily in past decades – and may yet work – but in an era when taxpayer financing of any project is under intense scrutiny, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to be handing over public money to a multi-billionaire like Katz. (Especially when you consider Toronto’s Air Canada Centre was entirely privately financed.)

A small part of me would like to see Katz try moving the Oilers, if only to see an entire civic population mobilize at once carrying torches and pitchforks. However, I don’t think it will come to that and one of three things will happen: Edmonton council will give in; Katz will relent and pay for the increased arena costs himself; or he’ll sell the team. Besides, after commissioner Gary Bettman has fought like a hellcat to keep the Coyotes in Phoenix, he’d be crucified if he allowed Katz to relocate.

Hi Adam, I’m wondering if there is any chance of a future NHL/NHLPA CBA including a clause that would require both sides to eventually go to mediation or arbitration if the agreement expires and a new deal is not reached within a set amount of time. Wouldn’t that help to eliminate some of the posturing and ensure that entire seasons are not lost?
Kevin McCormack, Guelph

HI Kevin,

From my perspective, you’re overrating the role of the mediator. That person is not a guaranteed arbiter of fairness – indeed, there are mediators (in)famous within the hockey industry for being owner- or player-friendly – so to imagine somebody out there has the capacity to please both NHL owners and players in some arbitration settlement is a pipe dream.

This CBA question is flawed in the same way as the one that asks “why didn’t the league and NHLPA just start negotiating last summer”? Both sides knew the other was unlikely to see things their way, so there was no point in starting early.

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Like it or not, this now-regular lockout process is a product of a business relationship that has been strained (to say the least) since NHLPA traitor Alan Eagleson was turfed from his post. Since that happened in 1992, there have been four labor showdowns (one strike and three lockouts) and there’s no reason to believe there will be a peaceful transition seven or eight years from now when a new CBA needs to be negotiated.

Adam, with all this lockout nonsense, is there any reason to think some owners actually want the lockout? All conspiracy theories aside, I only ask because it’s so obvious they are destroying their own product. There just has to be some ulterior motive going on. Right?
Shawn Daly, N.Y./N.J.


There’s no ulterior motive. Owners want this lockout for the same reason they did in 2004 and the one people rarely talk about: franchise values. The most recent Forbes report illustrates how successful Bettman’s owners have been in that regard.

If owners get a bigger piece of the pie this time and tie down player salaries even more than they already have, those franchise values will continue to skyrocket and owners will cash out (as Kings owner Philip Anschutz is trying to do right now). If you don’t know by now, this league strives to be an owners’ league first and a players’ and fans’ league a distant second, I don’t know what else to tell you.

Adam, here in L.A. everyone hears about the selling of AEG, the company that owns the Kings and Staples Center. The problem is that all anyone talks about is how it will affect the building of a football stadium here, as AEG has been planning, but how will it affect the Kings (especially only a few months after winning the Cup)?
Kevin Cottrell, Torrance, Calif.


The Kings’ future without Anschutz is certainly up in the air, but there’s no reason to suspect a new owner will force GM Dean Lombardi into conducting a fire sale. The franchise’s first championship has given it a boost among the locals and a stripping of talent would be devastating for its future.

In addition, Lombardi has managed the Kings’ cap situation well. After this season, the Kings’ commitments drop to $49 million (and that’s with all their top young stars signed). There’s little doubt there would be an effect on the team if the new owner insisted less money be spent on salaries, but I still see a solid future for them regardless of who is signing their cheques.

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