Blog Entry

Slippery slope

Posted on: July 26, 2010 4:42 pm
Edited on: July 26, 2010 7:37 pm
It was inevitable that Ilya Kovalchuk’s contract would end up before an arbitrator. When the case is actually heard is as unclear as who will hear it but in the meantime, Kovalchuk sits in limbo with the only thing for certain being that this situation is the first salvo in what is shaping up be another ugly labor war.

Obviously that’s the last thing the NHL and players need after a season-long work stoppage nearly ruined their business five years ago. But the players association really had no choice but to file a grievance on behalf of Kovalchuk, whose 17-year, $102 million contract from the New Jersey Devils was rejected by the NHL on the grounds that it was designed to circumvent the salary cap.

News flash:  Of course it was. It’s an accepted way of doing things these days.  The union, still officially leaderless after ousting Paul Kelly in a coup two years ago, therefore had no choice but to protect the legitimacy of a deal that seemed to follow the letter of the law would. Not to do so would have been a devastating sign of weakness heading into negotiations for a new CBA.

The current contract that expires in 2012 has actually been good to the players, a surprise to an extent considering their union was broken by the lockout and they were forced to accept a hard salary cap tied to overall league revenues for the first time. But income and salaries have grown precipitously since play resumed while the cap has increased by some 50 percent and creative types have found ways to give big bucks to marquee players by massaging the system.

Now the NHL wants to close the loophole that allows teams to average down a players’ salary over a long term to fit him annually under the cap.  That's understandable since the tactic still favors haves over have nots, and already there have been a variety of options floated, including limiting contract lengths or using the average of the five highest-paid years as cap markers.

But making the CBA even more idiot-proof than it already is and convincing an arbitrator won’t be easy because the NHL has approved similar type front loaded contracts to Stars like Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Marian Hossa, Roberto Luongo and Chris Pronger. And all go into what presumably would be retirement ages for the players involved, although none was as blatant or as long as the Kovalchuk deal which would have ended when he was 44.

But if the union prevails before an arbitrator, it will have established a precedent it is not likely not relinquish without a bitter fight.  One that both sides are walking into.
Category: NHL

Since: Aug 27, 2006
Posted on: July 28, 2010 12:44 am

Slippery slope

Now the Owners are structuring contracts to bypass the very cap they demanded

I was thinking the exact same thing. 

2004/2005--  Owers  "We can't afford these crazy contracts so we need to stop the escalation......I got it.....A salary cap!!!"
;     &nbs
p;     &nb

2008-2010--  Owners  "We can't lose this guy, we gotta find a way to keep him.......I got it.....Extremely long contract that spreads out what we used to pay in 7 years to 17 one will ever figure it out!!!"

These guys are have no shame!!

Since: Mar 2, 2008
Posted on: July 27, 2010 5:28 pm

Slippery slope

Same league that agreed to merge with a 21-year personal contract to one Wayne Greatzky.  It appears that once the numbers are no longer in favor of the league's bottom line the NHL wishes to object to the idea.

Ironic actually.  Here they were in the 80s and 90s having no issue with Wayne's long-term contract entering the NHL, yet when some owners agree to take in a lowly 17 year contract they now have a problem and call out the very CBA they agreed to with an actual players association.

Since: May 13, 2008
Posted on: July 27, 2010 2:56 pm

Slippery slope

NHL is screwd here, lots of good ideas out there about how to fix it but the cba is like 200 pages (I think I heard that) its a singed off legal document that cant be added to willy nilly, the NHL really dropped the ball here, matbe they get it right on the next one.

Since: Aug 25, 2009
Posted on: July 27, 2010 2:06 pm

Slippery slope

Here's what I find funny.

The owners fight for a cap, even forcing a lockout to make sure they got what they wanted because they claimed they could not afford to do business without it.

Now the Owners are structuring contracts to bypass the very cap they demanded.

Since: Jul 2, 2007
Posted on: July 27, 2010 10:48 am

Slippery slope

Your comment and analogy is an idiotic one, this isn't one team or one GM trying to cheat the system. This has become a trend that no fewer than 4 teams have taken advantage of with 5 different players...I'm guessing you didn't read the article. Teams are asked to play by the rules, and that is what they've done. It's not one team's fault the rules were just set up in a stupid fashion. You can't enforce rules subjectively on a case by case basis...that's just another example of cheating. If they wanted to take a stand on this kind of thing they should have done it awhile ago. Now it's too late.

Since: Aug 16, 2006
Posted on: July 27, 2010 10:18 am

Slippery slope

all income for contract years after age 39 rolled into contract for calcualtion purposes. Thus, if you sign a contract for 15 years at age 28, any amounts paid will be divided by 11 years to determine the cap hit. However, you do get to use the chart below which lowers cap hits for older players in their 30's and their is no cap hit for laying in the league after age 39. Contracts begun at age 31 or higher use the beginning year as the base year 100, and take weighted cap hits for future years as the ratios of the percentage weights from the old chart. Exampel, if you get paid 1 million on a contract beginning at age 31. then the cap hit is 100% for that year BUT at age 33 it is 80/90 or 888,889 for that age 35 it is 66/90 or 733,333, at age 37 it is 50/80 or 555,556 etc...
Cap hit for salaries are weighted as follows

17-30 100%
31-32 90%
33-34 80%
35-36 66%
37 50%
38 33%
39 25%
10+ No cap hit

This system has MANY advantages. Fairness. Loyalty. veterans still playing etc I wodl like to see a small hometown advantage for signees also AND perhaps the weighting chart coudl be tweaked for postion fter careful studies.

Since: Feb 22, 2008
Posted on: July 27, 2010 10:04 am

Slippery slope

One peice everyone seems to be missing in this contract is that it is the first one to have the last years on the contract (in this case 4) at the CURRENT league minimum. The NHL will argue that no reasonable person would expect the minimum salary to remain the same 13 years from now. If the Devils decide to argue that without any concrete guidance, the only number that they could use is the current one, the NHL will counter, stating that no reasonable person would expect that a player worthy of a 17 year deal would ever be worth only the league minimum.

Since: Jan 5, 2009
Posted on: July 27, 2010 9:36 am

Slippery slope

I agree with the union here.  You cannot disallow a player from signing a contract that will take him into his 40's.  That is age descrimination at it's finest.

The NHL's position here is tenuous at best.  A player signed a long term contract that violates no rules.  You cannot police intent, you can only police rules as they are written.  There is no way they can point to a rule that has been broken here.

Who can blame the Devils for what they did?  I hate the Devils, but you have to give them credit for finding a way of keeping a highly talented player.  Nothing they did broke any rules, and what they did is going to hurt them at the back end of the contract as much as it helps them at the front end.  The Devils are not getting away with anything here...

Since: Feb 11, 2008
Posted on: July 27, 2010 2:50 am

Slippery slope

You said it yourself Mr. Goldstein, "And all go into what presumably would be retirement ages for the players involved, although none was as blatant or as long as the Kovalchuk deal which would have ended when he was 44". So what is the cut off edge, if the NHL allows this , what's next, paying a player until he's seventy. My opinion, a team trying to circumvent the jist of the rule. Much like a rat will learn over time, better mousetraps need to be created. Find it unfortunate for all concerned that there's allways one in the bunch whom refuse to play by the rules. R.I.P George Steinbrenner, caught paying into Nixon's Watergate slush fund, bought himself a pardon. Twice banned from MLB, managed to bribe his way back in, probably doing the same thing as the first mentioned felony.
 Some of liked mind like to think it is being imaginative and testing the rules, personally I find to be trying find ways to cheat.

Since: Sep 30, 2007
Posted on: July 27, 2010 12:32 am

Slippery whos to blame

They should fine the team and not take it out on the player, its the team that drafts the contract.

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