The National Hockey League made what could be its first move towards a fourth lockout by issuing a strongly-worded statement demanding an end to the recent out-of-control spending by the previously frugal New York Islanders.
The NHL is calling for the Islanders to roll back their payroll from $55 million to $21 million and capping their contracts, even the team's current ones, at just a single season per player. Other conditions include setting the team's salary cap floor at a mere $2 million, turning all hockey related revenue over to the league with interest dating back to last summer and the immediate cancellation of all of the team's television broadcasts, merchandising and all ticket sales.
"We believe the Islanders are paying more players than they should be," Bettman said. "I think there's still a number of issues where we're looking at the world differently, one in which the Islanders are a pretty good team and not dead weight playing out the season for peanuts.
"Our league cannot continue to operate with an Islanders franchise like this."
While Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly refused to use the word "lockout" when speaking to reporters, his address had a familiar ring to it. This time, instead of the haggling over a Collective Bargaining Agreement with the NHLPA, the NHL was specifically blaming the Islanders for the league having to shut down.
"It looks like we are heading into a work stoppage that neither the league nor any NHL clubs wanted," Daly said. "We will continue to work hard to minimize the Islanders' spending once again, but ultimately, the team needs to take responsibility for the confusion that they are causing with their aggressive position to signing free agents."
Since their season ended in April, the Islanders have added seven new players, including starting goalie Jaroslav Halak and skilled forwards Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin at a total cost of $60 million over the lives of the contracts. The Islanders added $16 million to their 2014-15 payroll in just the last few days and jumped from 29th to 22nd in the NHL in spending. This is a stark contrast to prior years in which the team largely avoided, or was denied, signing unrestricted free agents.
The NHL has seen enough and is willing to lose a season to fight the Islanders and return the league to its normal status.
"I'm sure we will keep in touch with (Islanders GM) Garth (Snow) in the coming days and schedule meetings to the extent they might be useful or appropriate," Daly said. "We are sorry for where we are. Not what we hoped or expected."
An Islanders-initiated lockout would be the fourth in Bettman's 20-year stewardship of the NHL and the first that Islanders fans would actually want to end quickly.
This is fake. The league isn't shutting down for the Islanders. They only do that for good reasons.