NHL Rejection of Kovalchuk’s Deal: Better Late than Never on Nixing Bogus NHL Deals.
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While this isn’t exactly NEW news, I think it’s very important news for hockey fans. The NHL rejected the Devils, 17 year, $102 Million dollar deal and their decision has since been upheld by an arbiter. This deal paid out $98.5 million within the first 11 years of the deal (average of $8.95 Million). This also means that the player would earn only $3.5 million over the final 6 years of the deal and the first of those years Kovy would be 38 years old. The player would then simply retire (or go home and play in Russia if he had anything left in the tank), because there would be very little incentive to play out the final six years for a “measly” $3.5 Million. The problem with this type of deal is that in the NHL, no matter how a deal is paid out; the salary cap hit is the simple average of the contract. (In this case $6 million a year). Not if, but when Kovalchuk retires from the NHL at age 38, the Devils would be off the hook for the $6 million cap hit for the remaining 6 years.
This was the RIGHT DECISION, and this deal made a mockery of the CBA. In my opinion, as a concession for a salary cap, and players taking a reduced salary post-lockout, the CBA allowed for front-loaded contracts which its initial intent was to allow the big spending teams (since they are the ones will all the cash, and are most hampered by a salary cap) to have an advantage in signing Free Agents by giving them more money at the beginning of the deal. What I don’t think the League foresaw was a loophole that came to the forefront the past two off-seasons as team began spending their way into salary cap hell. The Free Agent signing of Marian Hossa should have been a red flag to the league and lead to nipping this problem in the bud. While Hossa’s deal wasn’t as egregious as Kovalchuk’s, the same intent was there. The same could be said to a lesser degree for Johan Franzen’s contract extension in Detroit, and others. THIS SHOULD HAVE BEEN ADDRESSED LAST OFFSEASON…
Instead it took an over-the-top blatant deal like Kovalchuk’s for the league to take action. Devil’s president/gm Lou Lamoriello is a smart man. He also has his finger on the pulse of the league as well as anyone. Part of me thinks he knew the league would react this way, he would prove a point, and still have a great chance at landing an elite player like Kovalchuk since most others teams were shunned by him. Would Lou really want this to become common practice when he is in a division with revenue-generating titans, the Rangers and Flyers? That’s my conspiracy theory and I’m sticking to it.
While the league’s slow reaction to this type of contract makes them look a little foolish, they made the right decision. This is good for the league as a whole. The salary cap is more than enough to field a championship caliber team. Teams like the Blackhawks and Rangers shouldn’t have an extra life-line to save them from their lousy overpayment of players (I’m looking at you Huet, Campbell for Chicago, and Redden, Drury, Rozsival, Boogard, Brashear for NY). Bad enough Montreal bailed out NY by taking Gomez off their hands. I think Kovalchuk will end up a Devil still, but they will have to move some more salary around, and the Teams were FINALLY put on notice by the League. In the long run everyone should end up happy.