If you looked at NHL.com’s list of recent transactions, you’d swear it was July 1st. Free agents are getting inked left and right, including Steve Emminger, Michael Rozsival, Ben Scrivens, Jonathan Blum, Justin Abdelkader, Carlo Coliacovo, and today, Kari Lehtonen added his name to the list, signing a five year, 29.5 million dollar deal (which is an awful lot of money for a goaltender, but we’ll let that go for now).

{UPDATE: Capitals young defenseman John Carlson just signed a six-year, 23.8 million dollar deal. He’ll earn $3.8M next season, and $4M per after that. Seems like a great deal for the Caps.)

This is obviously happening because the old CBA expires tomorrow night at midnight, and the owners and players are trying to ink deals now before the new CBA is drawn up, whenever that may be.

The question so many people have, is why? What’s the rush to get guys signed now, as opposed to waiting to see what the new collective bargaining agreement looks like?

In my opinion, the answer to that question points to a long, long lockout.

I’ve seen it said that the owners want to get these deals done now knowing that their resolve is strong (in making sure there are salary rollbacks of whatever variety in the new CBA), knowing that the actual value of the contracts they’re signing will never get paid out. So you get a guy signed for what he’s worth now, the money gets rolled back, and now you have the same player at a little bit lower cost. Boom. All you have to do is stick to your guns in negotiations, and you’re laughing.

Which leaves the question: if you’re a player, why sign now knowing you may not earn the full value of the contract? Why not wait to see what the new CBA parameters are, and get yourself paid fairly within that?

Basically, I think it’s for a similar reason: the players have been in the union meetings (pep talks), are strong in their belief that the union won’t cave on salary rollbacks, so they think they can take advantage of owners/GMs who say “Sure, five years at nearly six million per is fair!” while thinking “Sucker, that’s only going to be worth $4.6 per by the time we play again.” The players believe they’re going to keep the money they’re signing for (as a reminder, this is just me spitballing, trying to hash out why a million deals are being signed today). That, and they’re afraid the term length of contracts is going to be limited, something else the NHLPA will fight to prevent, so there’s some added incentive to sign, and added reason to think talk will go on for a long time.

So you have two sides entering into basically dishonest negotiations – “Yup, here’s your offer (heh heh),” “Great, happy to sign it (heh heh).”

There is some small possibility that the players are all signing now out of fear. Fear that the new deal is going to be so terrible that they could never sign post-CBA for near what they’re signing for now, even after a rollback, but I don’t think that’s the case. If the deal’s going to be that bad, you’d have to think guys know they’re going to end up having the dollar amount they earn knocked back into oblivion regardless.

I think they’re signing because they believe they’re going to get the money they’re agreeing too, and the owners don’t. Both sides know how inflexible they plan to be in these negotiations, so in their minds, signing now means you come out on top later.

And for the rest of us, watching two sides oceans apart in numbers stay entirely resolute, it could be a bad, bad thing.