August 14, 2010
(Ed. Note: A few posts this morning, and then Leahy and I are booked up for the next 24 hours. Check the Y! Sports NHL page for updates on breaking news, including the Kaberle watch. Coming up in a bit: The Penguins Mount Puckmore.)
What gets one cap-circumventing deal approved and another rejected? How many years are too many years? What miniscule salary at the end of the deal would be "feasible" for, say, a 43-year-old player and what would get the contract spiked by the NHL?
New Jersey Devils blogger John Fischer, who edits In Lou We Trust, understandably had some of these questions lingering after the Kovalchuk case. So he went to the source for answers: NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, who responded over email to a couple of queries.
Daly said that the "line in the sand" is apparent for NHL teams seeking to offer players long-term contracts that push the limits of cap circumvention and CBA violation:
There are a number of "guideposts" already out there from which Clubs can guide their conduct. No one factor is determinative, but all are important. How long is the contract, what is the player's age at the time of the contract's "expiration", what is the value of the contract in its "back-end" and how does that compare to its "front-end" and its resulting AAV, what are the other relevant structural elements of the contract?
What if those guideposts are too far off the highway, or if the "line in the sand" isn't clear enough? Daly offered an interesting solution for clarity:
At this point I wouldn't rule out the possibility that we may further discuss with the Union to see if "bright lines" can be established. Absent those "bright lines," it will be on a case-by-case, with existing guideposts established ...
Would the Players Association work with the NHL to establish guidelines for long-term deals before the next CBA war? Better question: Does anyone thing they can work together? The same duo that could barely push the politics aside to establish a ban on hits to the head last season?
Hard to imagine the players would sign off on any contract "guideposts" before the next CBA, seeing as how those are the types of concessions that can be used as bargaining chips. Plus, it's in their best interests to keep the "line in the sand" as undefined as possible. The Kovalchuk rejection was a perfect storm of conditions that one NHL-friendly arbitrator deemed in violation of the CBA; the same outcome might not occur if a less audacious contract is disputed.