21 July 2010

Enough Is Enough: League Takes A Stand, Denies Kovalchuk's New Contract

 NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Photo: Brian Bahr/Getty Images
Around 10 PM last night, while New Jersey Devils GM Lou Lamoriello was tucking Ilya Kovalchuk into bed, Canadian news sources TSN and RDS reported that the NHL had rejected the Russian superstar’s new 17-year deal.
The reason? According to the league’s official statement released this morning, the contract circumvents the salary cap and the CBA.
Well no kidding Mr. Bettman, an illiterate monkey could have told me that. (See: Arnold Schwarzenegger)
All joking aside, the fact that the commissioner and his cronies finally decided to challenge this type of contract is a major development.
However, analysts do not believe that the NHL will retroactively void the contracts of players like Chris Pronger, Marian Hossa, Roberto Luongo, etc.
Many hockey writers have condemned those players and their respective teams for agreeing to similar front-loaded deals, but only ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun pointed out that none of those athletes are signed until age 44, which is clearly where Kovy and the Devils crossed the line this time.
General managers having been pushing their luck up until now, and the Kovalchuk deal finally forced the league to hand down more than a slap on the wrist for dodging the salary cap.
Is it too little too late? We’ll have to wait and see how this all plays out.
Meanwhile, keep in mind that the current CBA doesn’t expire for another two years, and the last time it was renegotiated resulted in the 2004-2005 NHL lockout.
On a lighter note, enjoy these great finds by Chelsea: 
1. Kovalchuk's facebook account courtesy of Neil Greenberg from the Russian Machine Never Breaks blog:

2. The NHL's "Official" statement regarding the Kovalchuk contract, courtesy of Corey Krakower from ProSports Blogging:
From: Gary Bettman
Sent: Tuesday, July 20, 2010
To: Lou Lamoriello

Subject: Kovalchuk contract


I regret to inform you that the contract agreed upon between Ilya Kovalchuk, his agent Jay Grossman and the New Jersey Devils for $102 million dollars over 17 years has been rejected by the National Hockey League due to cap circumvention. The various detailed reasons for our ruling are listed below.
  • The NHL deems it to be cap circumvention for a player to sign a contract taking them to age 44, or, as it is more commonly known, “Chris Chelios’ Prime”.
  • The NHL’s “Email Expert” has found evidence that this was a retirement contract, based on information obtained from your personal email. To answer what is sure to be your follow up question, yes, we have in fact re-hired Ted Saskin.
  • The NHL did not agree with your comments that “since the Red Wings signed Zetterberg and Franzen to similar deals, there is no reason to void Kovalchuk’s contract”. Zetterberg and Franzen will both be 40 at the end of their deals and there is no reason for the league to believe they won’t be playing at that age, because it is still lower than the average age on Detroit
  • A 17-year contract is not an appropriate number of years. Rick DiPietro’s 15-year contract is a special circumstance, and the league only allowed that deal because we felt bad that DiPietro lifted the pen to sign the contract and broke his arm.
  • The final years on the contract are too low in salary and it is obvious that the player has no interest in honoring the contract’s final years. We understand that Chris Pronger’s contract has the same structure, and we were planning on rejecting that contract too, but Pronger stole our VOID Stamps.
  • One of the main issues is the major salary fluctuation throughout the contract. The difference between the max salary and minimum salary is over $10 million dollars. Do not cite Roberto Luongo’s arrangement as justification. There is a “Stanley Cup Clause” in his contract that states “the player will honor every year of the contract until he has won a Stanley Cup.” The NHL therefore expects Luongo to be playing until he’s at least 50.
  • The NHL’s insurance policy would not allow us to insure the contract, due to a “questionable medical history, specifically a chronic choking condition”.
  • Finally, we scrutinize the dollar value of every deal and the NHL finds $6 million per season to be drastic overpayment for a player who has played in only 27 NHL games. We acknowledge that you have sent us his career statistics, but those numbers list 594 games played for the Atlanta Thrashers. Please send the league support documents outlining what franchise this is, what league they play in and who their owner is, because we have never heard of this team.
Please note that you now have 3 options available to you. 1 – you can re-submit a revised contract; 2 – you can file a grievance and we will take up the matter with the same arbitrator that ruled against Jim Balsille; or 3 – you can agree to have the contract voided and work out a new deal, while also giving Dean Lombardi and the LA Kings a thirteenth chance to re-open negotiations.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours truly,

Gary Bettman

p.s. While writing this email, an unidentified man ran by my office 5 times and tried to throw a puck at me but kept missing wide. I know you’re upset but please tell Kovalchuk to stop it.

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