Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Contracts: NHL Wins Round 1

**Note: As the biggest news yesterday was not the Yankees losing to the Bo-Sox 2-1, but the Kovy decision, some of you may be sick of hearing about it. If that is the case, I can suggest you check out the latest edition of Hockey Quarterly, the Goalie edition. There are always interesting articles on this well designed site. Check it out.

I didn't expect it would happen. But it did. There weren't very many who thought the arbitrator that was chosen by both the NHL and the NHLPA would rule in favor of the NHL and say, YES: the Kovalchuk 17-year, $102 Million deal was designed to circumvent the NHL Salary Cap as outlined by the current CBA.

Lou Lamoriello knew where the loophole was. He helped to create it. The question is only whether it was Devils' ownership that made him crawl through that loophole when constructing the deal to bring Ilya to the Rock for almost the next two decades. Everyone said he seemed uncomfortable. His words to the media regarding the structure of the contract hinted at his distaste for it. The NHL agreed. So did Richard Bloch, who heard testimony for two days from both sides and mulled it over during the weekend.

The arbitration wasn't made public until late in the afternoon, leaving the entire hockey industry waiting for the answer and speculating as to the decision. When ESPN's EJ Hradek Tweeted that Kovalchuk himself was back in Russia awaiting the decision, I responded with "Not house hunting in NJ? Doesn't bode well."

It wasn't as if I knew anything or actually felt that way. It was simply an off-the-cuff remark. EJ actually DMed me his response saying I shouldn't read too much into it.

Perhaps those who tell me that I am actually looked at by many in this business are telling me the truth. It's a fine line to walk when I know facts that I can't disclose or have personal opinions that I can.

My opinion here is that, even with the impending consequences, this was the right decision. It is not as if the Devils offered a 20-year-old Kovalchuk a 17 year contract bringing him to a young, vibrant, 37. It is not that Lou didn't pour over the math and structure the salary payouts to a sensible, intelligent payout increasing the cap hit to a more realistic number based on a total payout of $102 million. No, this deal with the Devils was carefully calculated bordered on evil.

From an Islanders stand point, will this decision effect the future contracts of franchise players Kyle Okposo, Josh Bailey and John Tavares? Probably not. While Rick DiPietro was inked to his ground breaking contract for 15 years, it was done so with a consistent payout and cap hit. Perhaps the Islanders will shy away from deals that are more than a SINGLE decade in duration. I believe managerial speakers at NYIBC meetings discussed possible TEN year deals for the likes of Okposo or Bailey. But with a payroll well below the cap, the Islanders will not have to do any creative accounting to fit the deal within the NHL mandated salary cap.

Does this decision foretell of yet another work stoppage for the NHL? Only if both sides forget what it did to the industry the LAST time. Another work stoppage would be industry suicide and everyone would lose.

Except -- maybe me. I would use the time to actually complete my book and hang out at Sound Tiger AHL games. Yeah, I can generally find the silver lining if I look hard enough.

1 comment:

Travelchic59 said...

Personally, I think Lou is relieved. I bet he told ownership that contract was not a good idea and the owner wanted to make a splash because he has to get tickets sold to The Rock and told Lou to do it anyway. Wouldn't surprise me one bit if this was Lou's way of almost telling ownership "I told you so." therefore making ownership leave him alone to run the team the way Lou see's fit. I have no inside info . . just sayin.