The bomb Richard Bloch dropped on Ilya Kovalchuk and the New Jersey Devils when he ruled their 17-year contract circumvented the NHL salary cap is having an effect on teams that have signed players to similar deals.
The Vancouver Canucks, Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers have confirmed the league is investigating their long-term contracts with stars Roberto Luongo, Marc Savard and Chris Pronger respectively.
Canucks general manager Mike Gillis told The Vancouver Sun that the NHL is taking another look at netminder Luongo's 12-year, $64 million deal.
"We have complied with the NHL request for information and are awaiting further instructions," Gillis said. "Cannot say anything further at this point."
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli issued a statement regarding the NHLís investigation the seven-year, $28.05-million extension Savard signed in December.
"We are cooperating fully with the league in its investigation of the Marc Savard contract extension," Chiarelli said. "The league informed us upon their registration of the contract on December 1, 2009 that they would be investigating the circumstances surrounding this contract. From that point on, they commenced their investigation and it has been ongoing since then. On August 4th, I met with two League appointed lawyers as part of the investigation. We will continue to cooperate with the league in any future investigative proceedings if necessary and we will have no further comment on the matter at this time."
A source told CSNPhilly.com that the NHL met with Flyers brass last fall to discuss whether Prongerís seven-year, $34.45 million contract was an attempt to circumvent the salary cap. The league later told them that the deal was one of several under review.
"The contract with Chris Pronger that we registered with the National Hockey League is one we certainly feel was a compliant contract," Flyers president Peter Luukko said Tuesday.
"The Pronger contract is structured differently than the Kovalchuk contract. And itís been in effect well over a year."
The three teams aren't alone in facing some scrutiny from the league.
In Blochís arbitration ruling, Marian Hossaís contract with the Chicago Blackhawks was mentioned alongside Luongo, Savard and Prongerís in comparison to Kovalchukís. He also suggests that the league is putting the all of their deals under the microscope.
"The apparent purpose of this evidence is to suggest that the league's concern is late blooming and/or inconsistent," Bloch wrote in his ruling. "Several responses are in order: First, while the contracts have, in fact, been registered, their structure has not escaped league notice: those SPCs (Standard Player Contracts) are being investigated currently with at least the possibility of a subsequent withdrawal of the registration."
Luongo, Pronger, Savard and Hossa will all be at least 39 years old by the time their contracts expire. Their annual earnings drop significantly in the final years of the deals.
Luongo, who signed his contract last September, is set to earn $57 million in the first eight years of his contract and only $7 million in the last four. The deal, with an annual cap hit of $5.33 million, would see him play until heís 43.
Pronger's seven-year, $34.45 million contract with the Philadelphia Flyers, signed in July 2009, will earn him $33.4 million in the first five years and lasts until he is 41, with a cap hit of about $4.21 million.
Savard signed with the Boston Bruins for seven years and $28.05 million in December. At a cap hit just over $4 million, he'll make $25.5 million in the first four years of the deal, which runs out when he's 39.
Hossa joined the Chicago Blackhawks in July 2009 after signing a 12-year, $62.8 million contract with the club. He is due to make $59.3 million of it in the first eight years. The deal comes at a cap hit of just over $5.23 million and expires when he's 42.
Bloch ruled in favour of the NHL Monday, voiding Kovalchuk's 17-year, $102 million contract with the Devils.
The deal, signed July 20, would have seen Kovalchuk earn $95 million in the first 10 years and $7 million over the last seven, resulting in an annual $6 million cap hit. He would have been 44 years old by the end of the deal in 2027.
"We want to thank Arbitrator Bloch for his prompt resolution of a complex issue," NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement. "His ruling is consistent with the league's view of the manner in which the Collective Bargaining Agreement should deal with contracts that circumvent the salary cap."
Devils president, CEO and general manager Lou Lamoriello also issued a statement in response to Bloch's decision.
"We have reviewed and respect arbitrator Bloch's ruling in the Kovalchuk matter," Lamoriello said. "We also note and appreciate his finding that nothing in his opinion should be read as suggesting that either the club or Ilya Kovalchuk operated in bad faith or on the basis of any assumption other than that the Standard Player Contract was fully compliant with the CBA. That has been our consistent position throughout.
"While we do not currently have a contract with Ilya Kovalchuk, discussions have resumed and we are hopeful that a contract will be reached that meets with the principles in arbitrator Bloch's award and the NHL's approval."
As a result of the ruling, Kovalchuk is once again an unrestricted free agent and any team is able to sign him.
The fate of the others remains to be seen.