Oh, Gary Bettman. You love your scare tactics, don’t you? Your “take it or leave it” deals, your talk of deal breakers, your overall badmouthing of Donald Fehr. You didn’t think anyone would notice the newest one, did you?
Hidden within the pages of the NHL’s lawsuit that asks to validate the lockout, there lies a little blurb that argues against the threat of disclaiming or decertifying. It simply states that if the union dissolves, all player contracts will null and void. Every single one.
Oh, dear. That’s over 700 contracts. So what does that mean?
It means that you would have over 700 unrestricted free agents. It means that Sidney Crosby would be courted by all 30 teams. It means that we could possibly see the reunion of the Chicago Blackhawks’ 2010 Stanley Cup winning team. It means that literally everyone is up for grabs.
It also means that owners and general managers would lose their best players. There would be no guarantee that they’d have the exact same teams for next season. Teams like the Columbus Blue Jackets and New York Islanders would have a really hard time convincing players to sign with their clubs. Sure, they’d have loyal guys who would re-sign, but others would avoid those teams like the plague.
Then there’s the little problem of the owners themselves. Do they know about that little paragraph in the lawsuit? I highly doubt it. According to the accounts of several players who sat in on those infamous player/owner meetings in New York, the owners who were new to the table had no idea what was going on, so they had to be brought up to speed on things. If they didn’t know how negotiations were going, do you really think they’d know about this?
Bettman’s probably keeping them in the dark about this because if they knew about it, there would be a collective howl that would turn your blood cold. All those newly minted contracts over the summer would be for nothing. Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold, who just signed Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to giant contracts, would lead the charge with a sharpened pitchfork. I can’t imagine that every owner would sign off on the concept of voiding every single contract.
The next few days and weeks will tell if the league is serious about this. If they are, they’re risking literally everything. If it’s just a trick, hopefully the NHLPA will call their bluff and expose them.