*Warning:Â More analysis and opinionÂ concerning the Kovalchuk decision. For those who want to talk hockey, as opposed to the now perpetual indiscretions of the league office etc. Alex has a post beneath.
When Richard Bloch decided to rule in the favour of the NHL in the case of Ilya Kovalchuk and the ridiculous contract, he set in place a new precedent that the league hope will stem the flow of cap-circumventing front loaded contracts. In lieu of a concrete definition, the cover-all bases nature of Blochâ€™s ruling was expected to draw a line under the types of long, frontloaded contracts the NHL saw as detrimental to the spirit of equality the CBA and its salary cap was supposed to theoretically harbour.
Now that the NHL has won the arbitration award based on “salary cap circumvention” with the Kovalchuk situation, they are ready to tackle the rest of the league. A year (and perhaps in a few occasions more than a year) ago, specific contracts were approved by the league and now the league has decided to reevaluate those contracts to determine if they too circumvent the salary cap.
The NHLPA filed a grievance against the NHL for rejecting Ilya Kovalchuk and the New Jersey Devils' mammoth 17 year contract. After an arbitration hearing for both sides, today the ruling was in favor of the NHL, thus making Ilya Kovalchuk a free agent.
Excerpt from Michael Stephens Added
If leaked reports are to be believed the NHLPA is preparing to file a grievance pertaining to the NHLâ€™s rejection of the unprecedented 17 year, $102 million contract filed last week by the New Jersey Devils for Russian forward Ilya Kovalchuk. The report suggests that even if the Devils and Kovalchuk can agree on a restructured deal, the NHLPA may still decide to file a grievance in a preventative effort for future contracts.
The latter part is particularly significant for those who have been viewing the leagues rejection of the initial contract as an act of political posturing in the face of the PAâ€™s on-going power struggle and an attempt at drawing a line in the sand.
In their report, TSN mentions section 26.3 of the CBA which alludes to the NHLâ€™s right to reject a deal upon suspicion of circumvention. There’s just one problem: Kovalchuk’s contract didnâ€™t outwardly violate any payroll or term stipulations in the CBA (which are outlined in section 50).
In other words, the Devils have NHLPA has an excellent case to file a grievance. Sure, the league suspects circumvention, but how can they actually prove it when the terms of the contract conform to the existing stipulations of the CBA? Not to mention the league has in past seasons allowed equally-suspicious contracts to the likes of Hossa, Luongo, Zetterberg, Franzen and Pronger, among others. Or the fact that Chris Chelios was playing in the league last season at the tender age of 47.
Parsing the CBA: Term limits on contracts? None. Mandatory retirement age? None. Limits on individual contracts extending beyond a certain age limit? None.Â By all technical measures, the contract conforms to the CBA as it is written. The ethics of the contract may be called into question, but how can those accusations be proven when there is no specific violation of the agreement, when similar contracts have already been approved, and when players have played well into their 40s as recently as last season?
This is going to get real ugly, real fast.Â There is absolutely no way this can end well for the league, regardless of the final ruling.