A-Rod deal proves NHL /needs Salary cap

Alex Rodriguez trade made waves throughout professional sports -- and overshadowed a Lightning-hot Bolts team in the national media -- as his huge contract shifted from the Texas Rangers to the poster-boys of gluttony, the New York Yankees. The Yankees payroll this season is a fifth of a Billion Dollars and extra spending isn't frowned upon by George Steinbrenner.

This is the bane of both Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League.

I won't cry too many tears for the owners of the NHL, who have shown incompetence in their dealings and planning and marketing more than once, but when one team has a blank check to invest in players -- it goes to the players heads and goes to the Players Union's head. Sound economic models be damned -- if this team can afford to pay a player this sum,.there must be plenty of money for owners to invest.

The warped logic of this is that the NHL is not the NFL, it's not even the NBA. It is loved by North Americans from two countries but it is no economic juggernaut that can afford every team to pay players whatever they ask.

Though the high-spending Rangers didn't achieve greatness by pulling out their billfold, they have hurt teams in the league by setting standards of pay rates for marquee players without so much as an afterthought what it does to the league. With no forced cap on spending, they -- being in North America's #1 media market -- can spend whatever their heart desires and every other team in the league must play catchup.

I'm for a free market system - but something needs to be done so that one team does not horde everyone, and does not overspend to bring in any name that they chose. Of course, free agency and salary arbitration need to be fixed too to give the players a reason why they should even entertain the thought of a Collective Bargaining Agreement with a Salary Cap installed. A cap is a much more effective system than the "Salary Tax" installed by Major League Baseball which has failed to stop overspending by baseball clubs (the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees are perfect examples). A cap, though it restricts the market as to where one can sign and for how much, helps the game remain economically plausible.... And what does an improved, economically stable and entertaining NHL do to a Salary cap? It raises the cap -- lifting the owners boats as well as the players boats, so to speak -- by bringing in more money that can be invested.

Of course, I expect Gary Bettman to screw the pooch negotiating this deal and Bob Goodenow to screw the sport by not wavering.

And in some ways, you can thank Alex Rodriguez for all of this. Different sport -- but same failed economic system.