NHL draws line in sand with Kovy contract

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:52 PM ET

So, just when we thought the Ilya Kovalchuk 2010 Summer of Love Free Agency Tour had finally ended with him simply staying in Newark, we’re in for an encore.

At a time of year when most folks are worried about digging their toes in the sand, the NHL has drawn a line in it.

Apparently having Kovalchuk receive just $550,000 a year for the last five years of the 17-year, $102-million deal – a clear mechanism to drop the annual average of the deal and give the New Jersey Devils more flexibility with the salary cap – was too much for the NHL, which has become accustomed to rolling its eyes and holding its nose. That’s what it did in the case of the 12-year deals for Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo and Chicago Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa.

(I guess the thinking on the 15-year contract the New York Islanders gave to Rick DiPietro is it is punishment enough in itself).

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly issued the following statement Wednesday: "The contract has been rejected by the League as a circumvention of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Under the CBA, the contract rejection triggers a number of possible next steps that may be elected by any or each of the NHLPA, the Player and/or the Club.

"In the interim, the player is not entitled to play under the contract, nor is he entitled to any of the rights and benefits that are provided for thereunder. The League will have no further comment on this matter pending further developments."

Aren’t July days supposed to be saved for some nice summer reading, the pages of The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest getting splotched with sun screen and grains of sand getting caught up in the binding?

Now it looks like we’ll have to catch up on our binding arbitration.

I have a copy of the collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and the NHLPA and Article 26 deals with “No Circumvention.” But in reading through Article 26’s 16 sections, there isn’t any specific reference to the type of contracts we’ve seen handed out to Kovalchuk or the likes of Luongo or Hossa, who each got deals which extend beyond their 40th birthdays and were approved by the league.

There is some general language in section 26.3 which covers off anybody taking action on behalf of a club that “is intended to or has the effect of defeating or Circumventing the provisions of this Agreement or the intention of the parties as reflected by the provisions of this Agreement, including without limitation, provisions with respect to the financial and other reporting obligations of the Clubs and the League, Team Payroll Range, Player Compensation Cost Redistribution System, the Entry Level System and/or Free Agency.”

So there is that.

In the wake of the rejection, all we’re left with now are questions and uncertainty over where everybody goes from here.

The NHL has spoken and a source familiar with the situation said the NHL will sit back and wait and see where the NHLPA, the Kovalchuk camp and the Devils want to go with this.

Will the Devils and general manager Lou Lamoriello try and come up with a restructured deal? Will Kovalchuk just go back to the head of the free agency class and start the whole process over again?

Will the Los Angeles Kings (15 years, $80 million) or the Kontinental Hockey League get back on the dance card?

Does this whole thing wind up in arbitration, with the NHLPA apparently having a five-day window to file a grievance to go that route?

More importantly, is there anybody left at the PA to file a grievance?


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