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A Rock And A Hard Place - NHLPA Files Grievance On Kovalchuk's Behalf

This is only going to get worse before it gets better.

The NHLPA has field a grievance in the Ilya Kovalchuk contract fiasco, saying that the 17 year $102M contract was within the parameters of the current collective bargaining agreement.

A discussion follows the jump.

After the free agent bonanza of July 1st hit, Ilya Kovalchuk was easily the most prized of all the free agents. Rumours of him to Los Angeles and his former team Atlanta surfaced, but it was the New Jersey Devils who locked him into a lopsided 17 year deal valued at $102M. The deal was unique in that it was so frontloaded (Kovalchuk stood to make $98M of the contract in the first eleven years, with the remainder over the last six years) that the NHL rejected the deal stating that the contract circumvents the salary cap. And I’d think a logical, rational human would agree.

And I’d still bet you a few fish tacos that there’s no way Kovalchuk plays until he’s 44 years of age. Not for 550K a year. There’s so tiny of a chance that will actually happen, I’ll buy you a boat if it does. A gravy boat.

The NHLPA filed a grievance on behalf of Kovalchuk today, and on the surface I understand why they’re doing it. I would bet the player’s union will go with an argument of how ‘circumvention’ is a broad term that can’t be proved, and that’s not a bad argument if you’re the NHLPA or Kovalchuk. There’s one problem with this, and I’m at least a little surprised the NHLPA didn’t bite their tongue on this issue.

The problem is: Ilya Kovalchuk. Rather, not everyone is Ilya Kovalchuk, and that’s the problem.

Ilya Kovalchuk is easily the the most talented free agent in this year’s UFA crop. He’s also one of the best forwards in the game, and he stands to have a career in this league as long as he wishes to play and contribute. Most other players don’t get this luxury, there are many who play just a few years at the NHL level. If a player enjoys a ten year career, it’s very likely the money made in that career will not come close to that of Kovalchuk.

All NHL players pay into escrow – a system designed to cover shortfalls in revenue (kind of like when you pay taxes every pay period). The amount paid into escrow is based on a player’s salary, not the cap hit.

If the amount in escrow exceeds NHL operating expenses, the players get money back, and everything is peachy. If the amount is less than expected, then players have to pay more into it. And with all these frontloaded contracts (Kovalchuk being the latest and greatest), it’s going to end up costing guys who don’t have the careers of Ilya Kovalchuk more money in the end.

I understand the NHLPA has to protect one of their own, but they have to understand that by sticking up for Kovalchuk (and others who sign on to these heavily frontloaded contracts),  they’re stepping on a great majority of the league who won’t have the careers or money that Kovalchuk will.

And to muck-and-grind guys like Stortini and Colin Fraser, that’s not just right.

Check out  Tyler Dellow’s explanation of the situation here.   It’s a fantastic article that was written in December, well before the Kovalchuk mess.

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