After working ten hours last night and thinking about the recent Ilya Kovalchuk signing, I was pretty stoked to come home and see that the NHL had rejected the ludicrous $102M contract that was to keep the 27-year-old phenom in New Jersey for the next 17-years.
After years of NHL general managers finding loopholes to circumvent the current Collective Bargaining Agreement’s (CBA) regulations on players’ salaries, the NHL has finally had enough and stepped-in to help salvage a bit of its integrity.
The laughable contract, made by the Devils’ front office, was a poor attempt into keeping the eight-year veteran through the 2026-27 NHL season—when Kovalchuk was to be 44. The sniper was to make just $550,000 in each of his final five years, but only accounting for just $6M annual cap-hit.
Kovalchuk was to earn $6 million each of the next two seasons, $11.5 million for the following five seasons, $10.5 million in the 2017-18 season, $8.5 million for the 2018-19 season, $6.5 million in 2019-20, $3.5 million in 2020-21, $750,000 the following season, and $550,000 for the final five years of the unprecedented deal.
Another similar, but slightly less demoralizing, contract is the deal (July, 2008) between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Vincent Lecavalier—11-years, $85M. The 30-year-old All Star is slated to make $70M of that within the first seven years of the deal, and $2.5M total over the final two years. Total annual cap-hit for the team: $7,727,273
Although being a life-long Bruins backer, I was among the minority when Peter Chiarelli locked the team’s leading point-getter, Marc Savard, to a seven-year deal (December, 2009). This deal is definitely to a lesser extent than the two previous mentioned. But not only was signing an aging player to a deal that would keep him in Boston until he turned ‘over-the-hill’ of 40-years-old, but the type of contract—in my opinion—still puts a black-eye on the league and the team. A deal that pays the 33-year-old half of his total contract, $14M, over the first two seasons; with the other half (roughly) spread out over the last five years—when Savard turns 35—is a joke. Some call it creativity on behalf of the general managers strategy. But I call it lack of integrity.
These types of contracts are precisely what’s wrong with the NHL today—ridiculous, front-loaded deals and umpteen-year deals that make the greatest sport in the world look bad…a mockery, to put it bluntly.
“The contract has been rejected by the League as a circumvention of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Under the CBA, the contract rejection triggers a number of possible next steps that may be elected by any or each of the NHLPA, the Player and/or the Club. In the interim, the player is not entitled to play under the contract, nor is he entitled to any of the rights and benefits that are provided for thereunder. The League will have no further comment on this matter pending further developments.”
One long-term deal that shows me some honestness is the contract (January 2008) that was rewarded to Alex Ovechkin—13-years, $124M. Washington pays Ovie $9M per season over the first six years, and $10M per season over the last seven years for a cap-hit of $9,538,462 per season…straightforwardness from general manager George McPhee
You can’t blame the player when contracts like these are given out. There’s no denying that Kovalchuk is an elite talent. And if he believes it’s worth it for him to hold out for the highest bidder and the best possible deal to come around, then so be it. When the league is now being laughed at even from non-hockey fans, the onus has to be put directly on the club(s) and its brass that originally offer these contracts. Sure, some blame should be placed on the agents shoulders, as well as the player. But if there isn’t another millionaire/billionaire offering these deals and cutting the checks, then players would be forced to settle for less, while keeping the league’s good name.
A new CBA will be in order at the end of next season, as the current one was extended at the end of last month for one more season. I, for one, wouldn’t be completely surprised if we see another NHL lockout before the two parties 100-percent agree on the new rules and regulations. Hopefully it won’t come down to that. And hopefully they’ll all take a piece of McPhee’s principle pie and echo that into the new CBA.