Ilya Kovalchuk Arbitration Hearing Concludes…And the Winner Is?

August 9th, 2010 No Comments

It appears as if the NHL and NHLPA will finally have an answer as to which side will emerge victorious in the grueling Ilya Kovalchuk saga.

Richard Block—who was elected to be the arbitrator in the Kovalchuk hearings—has concluded his two-day hearings and now has until Monday to render a decision.

Block has two options.

First, he can choose to allow the Kovalchuk contract which would mean the NHL would have to accept the ridiculous 17-year, $102 million deal at face value. The other option would see Block side with the NHL, which would mean the contract would be rejected on the premise that it circumvents the NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement.

If Block does side with the NHL, the New Jersey Devils (the team that signed Kovalchuk to the deal) would not only potentially lose the services of the talented Russian sniper, they could also face stiff fines and perhaps even be forced to give up draft picks as punishment for trying to tender what may emerge as an illegal contract.

Many NHL fans have been arguing that the NHL has already set precedent by allowing a number of contracts that seem to mirror Kovalchuk’s deal.

That said, none of those deals were for 17 years ($95 million in the first ten years, $7 million over the next seven years), and none of those deals looked as fishy as the Kovalchuk contract.

It is widely believed that Kovalchuk has every intention of retiring after 10-12 years, which, coincidentally, is when most of the money owed to Kovalchuk will have been paid.

The question is, will the NHL be able to prove the New Jersey Devils and Kovalchuk were in collusion when the deal was signed?

The fact is, the NHL may not have to prove the Devils and Kovalchuk were in collusion, just that the deal itself was designed to beat the system—which many NHL fans believe it was.

Going forward it will be interesting to see which side emerges victorious, the NHL or the NHLPA.

Either way, I suspect the loser will emerge with a bruised ego and, in the end, will make the Kovalchuk contract a bone of contention once the renewal of the CBA rolls around.

As a member of the committee that helped design the CBA, Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello is thought to know the ins and outs of the CBA to a “T.”

Could it be that Lamoriello pushed the envelope on purpose? Was Lou using the opportunity to sign Kovalchuk to a nauseatingly front-loaded contract in order to bring attention to the mockery that is the CBA?

While not the first to sign an NHL player to a questionable contract, Lamoriello is the first NHL GM to get under the skin of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, who slammed the door on the Kovalchuk contract just hours after the Devils announced the signing via press conference.

The reality is, regardless of who is involved in the contract talks, the NHL has the right to set a ceiling for what an NHL team can and cannot do contract wise—perhaps the Kovalchuk deal is above that limit?

Playing Devils’ advocate, how much is enough? Should an NHL team be able to sign a player to a 20-year deal? Why not a 25-year deal? Why stop there, why not a 30-year deal?

It’s easy to say, “well, of course a 20-year deal is ridiculous”…that is exactly what the NHL is saying in regards to the Kovalchuk deal, it’s ridiculous!

The point is, there must be a point where the NHL, NHLPA and the NHL teams all say, “OK, enough is enough.” Question is, have the Devils gone too far when it comes to the Kovalchuk deal?

Regardless of Block’s decision, the debate over which side is right or wrong will likely rage on for a very long time.

Stay tuned, the Kovalchuk saga will finally end, for better or for worse by Monday. If you ask me, Monday couldn’t come too soon!

Until next time,

Peace!

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