NHL contract probe widens

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 12:21 PM ET

The NHL has expanded its investigation into long-term contracts.

League sources say not only is the NHL studying the deals signed last summer by Chicago winger Marian Hossa (12 years, $62.8 million US) and Philadelphia defenceman Chris Pronger ( seven years, $34.9 million), the NHL also wants details on Roberto Luongo's 12-year, $64-million deal with the Canucks, completed in September.

All three deals are structured so that the players will receive less money in the final few years. First, and foremost, it doesn't hamper the club if the player decides to retire and it also lowers the cap hit over the lifetime of the deal.

If you don't think this is any big deal, it's going to be a large part of the discussion during GMs meetings Tuesday and Wednesday in Toronto.

"Essentially, the league is investigating every deal that takes a player past the age of 40," a league source told Sun Media.

While Luongo's cap hit over the extension that kicks in next season will be $5.3 million, he is scheduled to make only $3.618 million in the final three years. The NHL is studying these contracts because, if the possibility of retirement was discussed, then it circumvents the cap.

If Hossa or Luongo decide to retire before the end of their deal, then their salaries would come off the cap. In Pronger's case, his $4.9-million cap hit will count even if he does retire because his extension kicks in after he turns 35, but that could change.

If found guilty once the investigation is completed, the teams involved could be fined up to $5 million or lose draft picks. There's just one problem: The NHLPA has no executive director and isn't co-operating as the league has requested paperwork.

OFF THE GLASS

The whispers have started that the Red Wings are looking for a goalie with Chris Osgood and Jimmy Howard both struggling. There aren't many options available ... An NHL scout's take on Tampa Bay's Vinny Lecavalier: "He looks like a guy playing like he wants to be dealt.." ... Ilya Kovalchuk's agent Jay Grossman and Atlanta GM Don Waddell continue to hold discussions to try to get a contract extension in place. Kovalchuk becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

AROUND THE BOARDS

The Bolts haven't been thrilled with the play of Andrej Meszaros and there's talk GM Brian Lawton is trying to move the 23-year-old blue-liner who has five years left on a deal he signed with the club in September, 2008. Making an average of $4 million, the Bolts will find it difficult to find anybody to take him ... What's this we hear about Dallas GM Joe Nieuwendyk sniffing around for a big forward? He'll be doing a lot of talking in Toronto.

RUMOURS DU JOUR

The Carolina Hurricanes are desperate to make changes, but GM Jim Rutherford is finding it difficult. While there was a rumour the 'Canes are willing to move Ray Whitney, he has a no-move clause. Sources say Carolina has been offering defenceman Joe Corvo to teams trying to improve their power play ... There are plenty of eyes on Peter Forsberg, who will wrap his participation in the Karjala Cup in Finland today. After suiting up with Team Sweden, Forsberg will decide tonight whether he wants to resume his career in the NHL or, perhaps, accept an offer with AK Bars Kazan in Russia. The Canucks are the frontrunners.

BRUCE.GARRIOCH@SUNMEDIA.CA


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