Any goodwill Gary Bettman had built up from the Olympics and incredible Stanley Cup playoffs just got taken out back and shot. The league rejected Ilya Kovalchuk’s 17-year, $102 million contract on the basis of the likelihood the winger won’t complete the 17 years, TSN reports:
"TSN Insider Darren Dreger explains that the deal was rejected due to the fact that the NHL does not believe that either Kovalchuk nor the Devils expected the 2004 Rocket Richard trophy winner would be playing near end of the contract and that it is a case of artificially lowering the annual average value of the contract. The Devils must now either file the contract once again or the Players' Association can file a grievance.
Should the NHLPA decide to file a grievance, the contract would remain dead until an arbitrator determines otherwise."
As I wrote on Biz of Hockey yesterday, the deal beyond ridiculous, especially because Kovalchuk will earn more than 95 percent in the first 11 years, but in an earmark of ridiculousness that makes the scoring system and Southern expansion look ingenious, Betteman is cutting down essentially the same contract he allowed for other NHL stars.
Marian Hossa would have to play into his early 40s as would Chris Pronger, both at less than $1 million if they played out their entire contracts. Likelihood of that is equal to the chance Tom Hicks is given a statue in Dallas.
Admittedly, the NHL warned teams to quit with the front-loaded long-term deals, but now comes the fuzzy part: How long is too long-term? How front-loaded is too front-loaded? Every area of the rejected contract is a gray area. Will others like Joe Thornton try a front-loaded long-term deal, but not so front-loaded as Kovalchuk? My guess is that they sure will, especially if the NHLPA wins a grievance (which has a fair chance because nothing the Devils did violates the collective bargaining agreement).
If you call a foul on Kobe on one end, you’ve got to blow the whistle on Garnett and if you don’t, then you can’t. Betteman essentially said some may and some may not have front-loaded long-term contracts. Now just disallow NHLers in the next Olympics, bring a team to Mexico City and Betteman’s all set.
Matthew Coller is a staff member of the Business of Sports Network, and is a freelance writer. He can be contacted at
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