Ilya Kovalchuk a Free Agent After NHL Wins Arbitration Hearing

August 9th, 2010 No Comments

Numerous on-line publications are reporting that Independent arbitrator Richard Bloch has ruled on the 17-year, $102 million Ilya Kovalchuk contract and the that NHL has won it’s case.

As a result, Kovalchuk’s deal is now null and void and the talented Russian is now a free agent…again!

The NHL had challenged the Kovalchuk deal on the pretense that the contract circumvented the NHL’s CBA. While many suspected the NHL would have difficulty proving their case, it appears as if Bloch, like so many other NHL fans, was able to see the Kovalchuk deal for what it was—a joke!

Kovalchuk’s 17-year, $102 million deal would have seen the sniper retire at the age of 44. Needless to say, nobody was buying that Kovalchuk would play until he was 44, in fact, given the deal was largely front-loaded, it was thought that Kovalchuk would walk after roughly $96 million was earned or around the ten year mark.

While Kovalchuk is considered a free agent now, it does not mean the Devils are out of the Kovalchuk sweepstakes. The Devils may choose to sit back down with Kovalchuk and his agent in an effort to re-do the deal—somehting I feel is the most likely option going forward.

That said, can you imagine if after putting their reputations and organization through this entire debacle that Kovalchuk decided to turn his back on Lou Lamoriello and the Devils in favor of another NHL team? Now that would be a juicy story!

Make no mistake about it, while New Jersey Devils fans are bound to be disappointed, this ruling is good for hockey.

If the arbitrator had ruled in favor of thNew Jersey Devils and allowed the Kovalchuk contract to stand, as is, the implications may have been devastating for hockey.

I have long talked about the need for a ceiling on contracts. The arbitrator’s decision to uphold the NHL’s findings will help ensure that we do not see 25-year deals (as stupid as that may seem) down the road.

Clearly, the NHL made the right decsion to challenge the Kovalchuk contract and, in the process, has brought back a level of respect back to a game that does not need any negative publicity.

There has been no word on whether or not the NHL will chose to levy any fines and/or punish the New Jersey Devils for their obvious attempt to circumvent the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

In the end, I believe the NHL will lay low, allowing the NHLPA and the Devils organization the opportunity to save a little face.

The NHL has won the battle, there is little sense in agravating the other side.

Now that the Kovalchuk contract dispute has been settled the NHL may chose to challenge a number of other deals that are alrady in-tact.

While the likes of Chris Pronger, Marian Hossa and Roberto Luongo all have long-term, big money contracts signed the NHL does reserve the right to investigate contracts as they see fit…and there is no time limit.

Will the NHL push the envelope by challenging more deals? Only time will tell, but if I were any of the aforementioned players, I would be a little nervous right now.

Until next time,

Peace!

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