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Saturday, September 4, 2010

It's A Mad Mad Mad World

Suffering succotash, where do I begin.  Well, first off, It's been a few days since I last posted, mostly because I was waiting for this whole Kovalchuk fiasco to figure itself out.  I guessed that it would all end in one of two ways:  either the NHL would remember what a bunch of gutless wonders they normally are and acquiesce to Kovalchuk's demands, or, backed by the arbitration ruling, they would hold onto their collective cajones for just long enough to smack Ilya and the Devils down, and void every contract from Chicago to Vancouver, a scorched earth policy that would effectively destroy any positive momentum they had gained from the events earlier in the summer.  Boy was I wrong.

The NHL chose to go full retard on this one.  First, they received what looked to be another ridiculous contract from the Devils, one that had only 2 years and $2mil difference from the one that was originally rejected, and also had an ultimatum from the Kovalchuk camp attached to it that demanded the NHL approve this contract within five days or Kovi would be playing Russia.

Then, continuing the ultimatum theme of this party, the NHL informed their usual whipping boy, the NHLPA, that unless they agreed to make immediate changes to the CBA to ban these "lifetime" deals, they would not only not approve the Kovalchuk contract, but also void the already established contracts of Luongo, Savard, and Hossa.  After negotiating with the union until the end of the five day deadline set forth by Kovalchuk's agent, Bettman and NHLPA reps informed the world that they would need another couple of days to get something done.

Besides causing a collective groan from the entirety of hockey loving North America, the extension gave the league and the union the time they needed to come up with a couple of new rules that supposedly would stop further circumvention attempts, as well as define exactly what the procedures are for making a valid contract.  According to a report on TSN by Darren Dreger, here is what they came up with:

"First: For long-term contracts extending beyond the age of 40, the contract's average annual value for the years up to and including 40, are calculated by dividing total value in those years by the number of years up to and including 40. Then for the years covering ages 41 and beyond, the cap charge in each year is equal to the value of the contract in that year."
"Secondly, for long-term contracts that include years in which the player is 36, 37, 38, 39 and 40; the amount used for purposes of calculating his average annual value is a minimum of $1 million in each of those years (even if his actual compensation is less during those seasons)."

In return for agreeing to alter the CBA midstream without actually collectively bargaining it (two very important words in a Collective Bargaining Agreement), the NHL will not only approve Kovi's outrageous contract, but also grandfather in all other current contracts that were being investigated for circumvention, which includes those mentioned above.

Now, its late on a Friday night, damn near Saturday morning, I'm kind of tired, and even when fully conscious, I'm not the greatest financial mind in my household, much less the country.  However, this seems to me to be a HUGE win for the NHLPA, the supposed underdog in all of this.  Not only did they save the jobs of numerous union members, added a now very rich returning member to their ranks, and helped keep one of the top goal scorers in the league from taking his talents elsewhere, they, especially in the eyes of the masses, stopped the tyranny of the NHL goon squad who again threw their weight around in an attempt to bully the battered union.  Public opinion is no small card to be able play in a couple of years when the CBA comes up and both sides hit the negotiating table, and right now, I would think the NHLPA has that card tucked away in its sleeve.

The NHL on the other hand comes out of this with very little to show for such a long, and arduous, dog fight.  Kovalchuk gets a smaller, but still no less ludicrous, contract.  I am far from convinced that these CBA amendments will completely eradicate the long term deals that make Free Agency stagnant, and they further muddle what was already a very confusing salary cap structure.  On top of that, the mileage from their arbitration win, one that was heavily supported by the fans, is spent.

In one of my previous posts I said that voiding the Kovalchuk contract was one of the few bits of common sense I had ever seen the NHL use.  What I didn't know at the time was that the stress of that one drop of wisdom would cause the league to snap like a twig and try to blow itself to smithereens.

And this was just a contract negotiation; wait until the CBA expires in 2012.

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