Talk about a hidden cost. Not only did the New Jersey Devils end up paying Ilya Kovalchuk more than they planned, they were pinched for another $3 million by the NHL for the effort.
Mind you it could have been worse had the league decided to reduce New Jersey’s cap space by the fine’s amount as well. The NHL had that option once the arbitrator ruled New Jersey’s original, 17-year, $102 million deal with Kovalchuk was a sham, and it would have really hurt the Devils who had cap problems even before reworking the deal.
Right now, New Jersey is about $3 million over the cap ceiling and has until opening night to become compliant. Thing is the Devils are still two players short of the roster minimum, so they caught a break in a way with the money part of their punishment. Good accountants will find a way to deduct it.
But the additional loss of a first-round pick and a third-round pick is a real cost to the organization that likes to build through the draft, although you might argue that allowing New Jersey to choose which of the next four years to give up that first-round pick is a bit of break too. The Devils could win a Stanley Cup in that time and the champs’ choice is always the last of the draft’s first round.
Even so it was a serious reprimand on the whole and not entirely unprecedented, but it was assessed despite the league guiding and approving the new Kovalchuk deal. That on its own increased the player’s annual cap to the Devils hit by 10 percent. Still the league wanted and probably had to send a message in this case, but it already did by rejecting the initial deal and threatening to re-examine a few similarly-structured contracts given out in the last few years to star players.
None was as blatant of course as New Jersey’s effort to have Kovalchuk signed until he was 44 years old, but by throwing the threat into the mix against a leaderless NHL players’ association, the league extracted big concessions from the union in the form mid-stream changes to the CBA with respect to long-term contracts. It’s no secret those ‘lifetime’ contracts are detestable to head office in Manhattan, and with new stricter guidelines in place, it gives the league much more to work with when bargaining for a new CBA begins.
So the league already won a very key battle in this drawn-out affair. Kovalchuk’s new deal was costlier to New Jersey and ultimately tolerable to the league, and instead of creating legal nightmares by nullifying previously accepted deals, the NHL could hold its nose and still save face by allowing the others to stand but preventing similar ones from being written before the CBA expires in 2012.
But there’s no penalty for piling on in hockey.
other deals that would This CBA expires in 2012 and the NHL wants givebacks. hat’s about a year awayBut the league will be very likely be lined up against Donald Fehr in those negotiations. His recommendation by the union’s executive committee last Saturday effectively guaranteed his presence.