The Contrarian breaks down the impact of the broadcast rights deal between Bell and the Ottawa Senators...
Earlier in the week it was announced that Bell Media and the Ottawa Senators signed a 12 year agreement to have TSN and RDS become their regional broadcast rights holders. This prompted an article by Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun, called “Ottawa Senators’ new money can be used to sign players”.
In the article he talks with Senators president Cyril Leeder about what the deal means to the club. “It allows you to get in there and duke it out with the big guys”, “When you have a strong base of revenues from your corporate partners and your fanbase, that makes you stronger”, and “It allows you to compete with (teams like) Toronto, New York and Vancouver”, said Leeder.
He continued to add, “We’ve never shied away from acquiring players” and “If Bryan has the opportunity to acquire a player, he’s going to do that.”
This gives the reader the first impression that the Senators will be active and ready to spend their money in order to make the playoffs. Garrioch hypothesizes that the money will be targeted towards re-signing Jason Spezza, Bobby Ryan and Clarke MacArthur. Their current deals end in 2014-15.
The very next day Bruce Garrioch wrote this article, “Melnyk buoyant after Senators sign massive TV deal” and a day after that James Bagnall, of the Ottawa Citizen, penned “Citizen exclusive: New deal no excuse for a spending spree, Melnyk says”. These two columns paint a slightly different picture.
From the Ottawa Citizen article Melnyk is quoted as saying, “We are going to be competitive in spending on players. If I need to spend an extra $2 million to $3 million (on unrestricted free agents) to make the playoffs, it’s a no brainer. I’ll do it.” Later on he then talks about being cautious, “We’re going to spend it wisely,” and “Just because you have extra money in your pocket, doesn’t mean you go out and spend it.”
In Garrioch’s second column, Melnyk again starts off with “This deal allows us to be more of a force to be reckoned with”, but then eases back by talking about cap space and roster depth. “We have all the key components for future success: Cap space, a very, very valuable commodity now and in the future (along with) huge depth in (Binghamton), college, junior and overseas.”
To emphasize his feelings about their depth he continues, “A number of our players would easily make NHL teams right now – we just have too much talent on the Senators.”
He then adds, “We are thrilled and we intend to continue to invest heavily (in development) but have the flexibility to move quickly on outside opportunities.”
On January 30th, a series tweets were provided while discussing with TSN 1050 Radio:
“There is no need to (spend up to the cap) – you can organically grow your team as we have. We have tremendous depth.”
“Usually when you have to spend to the cap, you’re making up for a lack of depth. It’s that simple.”
“If you think I would have a nightmare if the CDN dollar goes down? Imagine the teams that are at the cap – and then the cap comes down”
“Those teams are paying you to take their stars. That’s one of the reasons we’re not seeing many trades”
So what does all this mean to you?
Well at first looking at CapGeek, I notice that Milan Michalek and Chris Phillips are unrestricted free agents at the end of this season. While Michalek has talent he is injury prone, knees and concussions, so don’t be surprised if the Sens walk away from his six million dollar salary (average cap hit is 4.3 million) and focus their attention elsewhere. They probably will resign Phillips as long as his contract demands are not much greater than his current salary of $3.25 million but at age 35 and with some depth at defense he might be playing for another team at the start of next year.
I thought it was curious that Melnyk would talk about players in their system and include the ones overseas. Keep your ears open on any word about Nikita Filatov coming back from the KHL. I doubt it but these things have happened before.
Now in terms of trading and taking advantage of teams that are already at the cap, they would probably like all their deals to be like the Bobby Ryan one. They gave Jakob Silfverberg, Stefan Noesen and this year’s first round draft pick to the Ducks in exchange for Ryan.
However, the deals might be more along the lines of the recent Toronto-Edmonton deal that saw Mark Fraser traded for Teemu Hartikainen and Cameron Abney. James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail wrote “Mirtle: More moves coming for cap-strapped Maple Leafs” and explains how teams at the cap, like the Leafs, have to make these types of deals to get injured players back in the lineup and to make cap space for potential deadline deals.
As Melnyk suggests, Ottawa could have a powerful negotiating position as the trade deadline nears. GM Bryan Murray only has to play his cards right.
One final note regarding the TV deal, on November 27th in an article written by Eric Atkins of the Globe and Mail called “Game far from over for TSN despite void created Rogers, NHL deal” Bob Stellick kind of predicted the Bell Media/Senator’s deal.
“If I were TSN I would be contacting each of the Canadian NHL teams’ presidents and saying, ‘I want to make sure you understand how seriously we’re in the mix when your local rights come up. … We’re going to be bidding extremely actively’”, suggested Stellick back then.
Along with Ottawa Senators, TSN/RDS have the television regional rights to the Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens and Winnipeg Jets. The other Canadian teams might find themselves with similar TV deals.
They get the cash for TSN to carry their games. Cha-ching!