League Chasing Front-Loaders


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.

With all the power in the NHL’s hands, these contracts could be erased instead of being grand-fathered into the new CBA. That spells bad news for the players, the NHLPA and even the NHL. Their relationship with the players took a hit during the 2003-04 layoff when they rolled back everyone’s salary by 24%. With the consensus that the NHL believes they can open the doors on terminating contracts they had already approved, it’s certainly not going to be a pleasant process.

After Chris Pronger, Robert Luongo and Marian Hossa were approved by the league, it came as a shock to many that Kovalchuk’s contract was rejected by the arbitrator. Now that the league has the power to claim “salary cap circumvention” on any contract they may believe doesn’t fit appropriately in the league, they are knocking down doors that perhaps should just remain shut.


Perhaps the league waited this long to have one team make a ridiculous offer that would be a “guaranteed” rejection should it go to an arbitrator. Now that they have that successful assessment under their belt, they are ready to attack all the others they feel are inappropriate.

The league simply has to stop making itself look ridiculous. The arbitrator awarded the Kovalchuk situation in favor of the NHL. Good. The contract was absurd and should not be part of the league. Now, the NHL is ready to review other front-loaded contracts, and trust me, there are plenty spread out in the league. This is a bad idea.

Should the league determine that these contracts are in breach of the CBA, they will essentially be telling the public that their review process when the contracts were first instilled was done poorly and they now need to correct their own mistakes. Bad press for the league once again. This ensures that anytime something happens in the NHL that the league feels is improper they have the power to void all past transactions and move into their own direction.

Here is a list of front-loaded contracts that the league could be reviewing.

BOS – Marc Savard – $22.5M over the first four seasons, $2.55M over his final three.

CGY – Miikka Kiprusoff – $33.5M in his first five seasons, $1.5M in his fiinal year.

CHI – Marian Hossa – $59.3M over his first eight seasons, $3.5M over his final four.

CHI – Duncan Keith – $65.76M over his first ten seasons, $6.24M over his final three.

DET – Henrik Zetterberg – $60.15M over his first nine seasons, $5.25M over his final three.

DET – Johan Franzen – $36M over his first seven seasons, $7.5M over his final four.

MTL – Scott Gomez – $41.5M over his first five seasons, $10M over his final two.

NYR – Chris Drury – $30.25M over his first four seasons, $5M on his final year.

NYR – Wade Redden – $29M over his first four years, $10M over his final two.

OTT – Jason Spezza – $40M over his first five seasons, $9M over his final two.

PHI – Danny Briere – $47M over his first six seasons, $5M over his final two.

PHI – Kimmo Timonen – $30M over his first four seasons, $8M over his final two.

PHI – Chris Pronger – $33.2M over his first five seasons, $1.5M over his final two.

TBL – Vincent Lecavalier – $82.5M over his first nine seasons, $2.5M over his final two.

TBL – Ryan Malone – $23.5M over his first four seasons, $8M over his final three.

TBL – Mattias Ohlund – $18.5 over his first four seasons, $6.75M over his final three.

VAN – Roberto Luongo – $57M over his first eight seasons, $7M over his final four.

While some of these contracts are likely not to be reviewed, they are somewhat questionable and fall into the category of a front-loaded deal. It begs to question at what length the NHL will review these contracts, and, if more are terminated, how many of these players are going to become free agents? Will teams that have made costly errors in some of these deals approach the league to have them investigate these contracts for salary cap circumvention? If the league decides to punish teams along with terminating the contracts, are more franchises willing to approach the league to have a contract reviewed and terminated in at the cost of a fine? What will the penalty be should contracts be declared a breach of the CBA?

This is a significant issue that is on the verge of erupting on this league. Fans, teams and players alike should prepare themselves for the worst.

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