Ilya Kovalchuk Deal Could Be Devastating for the NHL

August 5th, 2010 2 Comments

It is widely believed that the Ilya Kovalchuk deal and subsequent hearings have all but kept many NHL teams and unrestricted free agent players from making more of a splash this summer.

Numerous trades—most notably a deal involving Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Tomas Kaberle—have been sitting on the back burner for quite some time, leaving many NHL teams and fans feeling like they have been kept hostage all summer long by the Kovalchuk saga.

Yesterday, arbitrator Richard Block began hearing the arguments for and against the Kovalchuk contract from both the NHL and the Players Association.

A decision on Kovalchuk’s 17-year, $102 million contract is expected by this Friday, if not by Monday at the latest.

In the end, there are only really two scenarios that can come of Block’s findings. First, Block upholds the Kovalchuk deal, which will force the NHL approve the contract as is.

The second option is for Block to side with the NHL (believing the contract circumvents the CBA) which, in turn, would mean that Kovalchuk would become a free agent, making him free to attempt to sign another deal with whatever team he chooses.

Regardless of the outcome, one has to believe that the Kovalchuk contract will be bad for the NHL and hockey in general—either way, whichever decision is made, the bad blood will be far from over. In fact, it will just be the beginning.

If Block sides with the Players’ Association, you have to believe that more NHL teams will look to push the envelope on long-term, front-loaded deals. Could a 25-year, $100 million deal be in the cards?

Sure, a 25-year, $100 million deal seems insane, but so does Kovalchuk’s 17-year, $102 million deal to many NHL teams and fans alike.

The reality is there has to be a ceiling on what the NHL will and will not accept in the world of high-dollar, long-term contracts. Where should the NHL draw the line?

As an NHL fan, do you even care how a contract is structured, or could you care less as long as your team gets its man?

In the event that Block sides with the NHL and voids the Kovalchuk deal based on its circumvention of the CBA, one has to think that the Players’ Association will use these findings against the NHL in the next CBA negotiations.

One thing is very clear, the players and the Players’ Association hate to lose—they will look to extract a measure of revenge against the NHL if/when the Kovalchuk deal is rejected.

If this is the case, it will hurt the NHL, which, in turn, may cost the League and players millions of dollars in lost salaries and revenues all because New Jersey Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello had to push the NHL too far.

When NHL commissioner Gary Bettman made the final decision to lock out the players for the entire 2004-05 season, it marked the darkest of days in NHL history.

Many believe that another lockout would be suicidal for the NHL, something that is a real possibility amongst so many financial uncertainties in the United States and with a growing number of NHL franchises operating in the red.

Add the tension that will emanate from both sides after the Kovalchuk contract is decided upon and you have what may evolve into NHL Armageddon, Episode II.

There is so much more at stake for both sides than a simple decision on the Kovalchuk contract—this is another “d%ck” measuring contest by the NHL and NHLPA with the winner emerging with bragging rights.

In the end, there is no good outcome here. The Kovalchuk contract may only be the beginning of what may become the biggest battle in NHL history.

Until next time,



  1. CyPontuo says:

    When the teams cannot afford a player whose worth goes beyond that of owning the team, well, they end of owning the team or someone(the NHL or the team) owes them something. These deals may stop that “worth” paying them in the long term slowly instead of “worth” building up during popularity or trendy times, especially peak years when star potential is at its greatest.

  2. John Leak says:

    My thoughts on this subject? Get rid of player agents and make the players themselves negotiate their own contracts. (Then they wouldn’t have to pay any commission to a leech-like agent, more money in their pocket.) Although, they would have to get an MBA and learn finances and money magagement first.

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