With the NHL’s rejection of Ilya Kovalchuk’s deal with the Devils, the debate has broken out as to what constitutes circumvention of the CBA and what’s a fair deal. Hockeybuzz’s Sam Woo sees the rejection as evidence of a double standard in the NHL’s policies and a misstep that casts the NHL as a “Mickey Mouse organization.” Admittedly, any line drawn in the sand must be arbitrary. But the Kovalchuk deal screamed “circumvention” from the rooftops.
While the deals signed by Chris Pronger (taking him to age 43) and Marion Hossa (taking him to 41) are borderline, the Kovalchuk deal is a farce. Uncle Lou essentially came out and said so after the signing when he admitted that the league “shouldn’t have these [contracts].”
Lamiorello’s assessment alone carries a good deal of weight in the minds of most hockey folks. But let's look at the numbers.
Hossa is easy. Even in his last 4 years, his salary is $1 million. That's not chump change. So his contract has him making "real money" for 8 of the 12 years. That's 75% of the term. Consider the reduction in cap hit from those last 4 years and the cap hit is reduced by 29%.
Pronger is similar. He makes "real money" for 5 out of 7 years, or 71% of the term. And comparing his cap hit if the tag-on years were removed, the cap hit is reduced by 26.4%.
Then there's Kovalchuk's deal. The term itself doesn't pass the "yeah, right" test. But let's put that aside and say it is realistic. Based on the numbers, he will make next to nothing ($525,000) for the final 6 years of his 17 year term. That means he only makes "real money" for 64.7% of the term. That's a full 1/3 (and then some) of the term that is bogus. And that is mirrored in the reduction in cap hit. Factoring in the 6 year farce period, Kovalchuk’s cap hit to the Devils is reduced by 33%.
Call it arbitrary, but the NHL’s rejection of this deal simply shows that reality has to be a driving factor at some point. When a contract is structured so that essentially 1/3 of it’s term will be written off and the player’s salary cap hit will be artificially reduced by 1/3, the league needs to reject it. Anything less would be the act of a Mickey Mouse organization.