September 01, 2010
On Wednesday afternoon, the NHL and NHLPA extended the deadline for approval or rejection of the New Jersey Devils' latest Ilya Kovalchuk(notes) contract until Friday at 5 p.m. ET. News quickly spread that the two sides were in discussions about amending the Collective Bargaining Agreement to address long-term, "cap circumventing" deals.
Well, maybe not "discussions" as much as an NHL power play, in the form of an ultimatum to the NHLPA.
Larry Brooks of the NY Post broke the news Wednesday night that the League would "grandfather" in Kovalchuk's 15-year, $100 million contract along with contracts for Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo(notes) (12 years, $64 million) and Chicago Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa(notes) (12 years, $63.3 million) which are both under investigation by the NHL. (Curiously absent from the report: Marc Savard's 7-year, $28 million deal with the Boston Bruins.)
According to Brooks, these contracts will be accepted as long as the NHLPA accepts these terms:
1. That the cap hit on future multi-year contracts will not count any seasons that end with the player over 40 years of age. The cap hit would be calculated on the average of the salary up through age 40 only.
2. That the cap hit on future contracts longer than five years will be calculated under a formula granting additional weight to the five years with the highest salary.
If the NHLPA doesn't go for it, the NHL will start spiking contracts: Beginning with Kovalchuk and Luongo.
The first provision might have some popular support, if only because it would help eliminate the ridiculous forecasting of goalies playing at 43 years old and Russian snipers playing until 44.
The second provision, however, dramatically rewrites the rules for long-term deals. Henrik Zetterberg's(notes) 12-year, $73-million deal, for example, has a cap hit of $6.083 million thanks to a couple of $1 million seasons when Zetterberg is over 40. Under the proposal Brooks is reporting, that cap hit for a deal like that would no doubt balloon because Zetterberg has nine years over $7 million in base salary, and seven over $7.5 million.
(Keep in mind the Zetterberg contract is safe; we're just using it as an example.)
But that brings us back to a often-repeated point about these deals: Aren't some of them virtuous?
Should slightly lowering a cap hit, with a couple of reasonably salaried seasons at the end, in order to maintain the cores of competitive teams be something that's demonized? Can't it actually be good for hockey in some cases that don't rise to the calculated absurdity of Kovalchuk's first contract?
If the NY Post is spot-on about this -- and let's remember, that's never a given -- it'll be fascinating to see what type of stand the NHLPA attempts to take here, as the NHL uses the Kovalchuk cases as a pressure point on long-term deals.