On Tuesday, there were a number of small pieces of insight that lend credibility to our conspiracy theory that New Jersey Devils GM Lou Lamoriello was actually doing the NHL a favor when he offered superstar wing Ilya Kovalchuk a laughable contract.
First comes the report that the Devils knew on Monday night that the NHL had no intention of accepting the contract, but went ahead with flying a number of high profile players into town for a press conference on Tuesday. Why drag a huge media circus out if you know the deal isn’t done… at least legally?
Then Lamoriello added some meat to the conspiracy.
“There is nothing that we have done wrong,” Lamoriello said Tuesday. “This is within the rules. This is in the CBA. There are precedents that have been set. But I would agree we shouldn’t have these. I’m also saying that because it’s legal and this is something that ownership felt comfortable doing for the right reasons.”
This sounds like a kid justifying a broken window on the playground by saying, “Everyone else was throwing a baseball by the windows.” Lamoriello doesn’t appear to show remorse for offering the deal, or having it rejected.
According to a number of sites, the actual salary breakdown of the 17-year contract makes the deal look questionable at best. In the first two years of the deal, Kovalchuk would reportedly have a $6M salary. The following five seasons would see Kovalchuk making $11.5M, before a decline of salary in the subsequent seasons of $10.5M in 2017-18, $8.5M in ’18-19, $6.5M in ’19-20 and $3.5M in ’20-21. The salary then dips to only $750k for one year and then five seasons of $550k to end a deal that concludes when Kovalchuk is 44-years-old.
According to ESPN.com, the NHLPA will have five days from Wednesday to file a grievance on the matter. If it does, an arbitrator who is familiar with the collective bargaining agreement and agreed upon by both the league and the players’ union will determine whether the league’s rejection of the contract was valid. The arbitrator would have 48 hours to decide whether the league was right to reject the contract. If the arbitrator agrees, the contract would be voided, and Kovalchuk again would be an unrestricted free agent.
However, as TSN’s Darren Dreger pointed out on Tuesday, the NHLPA and NHL would have to agree on the arbitrator. This could turn into a long, ugly process that could take weeks just to agree on the third party to rule on the situation.
What makes this situation more intriguing is the potential impact of the deal on Kovalchuk’s agent, Jay Grossman. According to CapGeek.com, “In order to retain status as a certified agent … each agent shall annually certify he has not violated CBA Article 26 (no circumvention).”
The beginning of the NHL’s official statement regarding the contract’s rejection reads: “The contract has been rejected by the League as a circumvention of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.”
Grossman, who works for PuckAgency, appears to have put his status as a certified agent into jeopardy with this contract.
This will continue to be an evolving situation that could play a major role in future CBA negotiations for the NHL.