June 28, 2010
In reporting on Evgeni Nabokov's(notes) impending free agency, it's been reported that the San Jose Sharks goalie will be in line for a "35-and-over" contract as defined by the NHL's Collective Bargaining Agreement:
All Player Salary and Bonuses earned in a League Year by a Player who is in the second or later year of a multi-year SPC which was signed when the Player was age 35 or older (as of June 30 prior to the League Year in which the SPC is to be effective), regardless of whether, or where, the Player is playing, except to the extent the Player is playing under his SPC in the minor leagues, in which case only the Player Salary and Bonuses in excess of $100,000 shall count towards the calculation of Actual Club Salary.
Please recall the flap over Chris Pronger's(notes) contract with the Philadelphia Flyers, as he signed a 7-year cap-friendly contract but one whose cap hit would count if he retired during the term of the deal because it kicks in during 2010-11 and he turned 35 last October.
Nabokov's birthday is July 25, 1975, so he'll be 35 when the season starts. This led to the Courier-Post, the DelCo Times, Philly.com, NBC and yours truly to report that it's a 35-and-older contract if he signs with, say, the Flyers.
But he was 34 on June 30, and that's the key: The NHLPA confirmed with us today that Nabokov's deal will not be a "35-and-over" contract because "a player would need to be 35 by June 30th to sign a 35 or older performance bonuses based contact."
Where falling short of the "35-and-over" rule hurts? In the short-term: If they're 35 before June 30, players like Nabokov could sign a one-year deal with huge incentive bonuses that keep the cap hit low.
Where it helps? Well, it leaves open the possibility of exploiting the CBA loophole for players who earn big money up front, peanuts later and retire during the term of the deal. with the money coming off the cap.
Thanks to the NHLPA for the clarification, and to the Mike from Left Wing Lock and reader Dan L. for their inquiries about the issue.