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NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly discusses the NHL's 'line in the sand' regarding contracts

Aug 13, 2010, 8:00 PM EDT

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Bill Daly.jpgBy now you may be well-versed in the reasoning behind the rejection of Ilya Kovalchuk’s 17-year, $102 million contract with the New Jersey Devils. To review, his deal stuck out as especially bad considering that his deal had six unrealistic salaried years at the end, the deal would take him to age 43 and those final seasons also mysteriously shifted from no-movement clause years to no-trade clause only seasons.

That being said, the NHL’s “line in the sand” seems to be hidden underneath a sand castle somewhere on a metaphorical beach of confusing puck-based legislation. (To complete this zany metaphor, the league’s rules regarding head-shot suspensions are being devoured by sharks.)

SBN’s Devils blogger John Fischer got in touch with NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, widely considered to be the second most powerful league executive behind Gary Bettman. Fischer asked for clarification regarding what exactly determines that “line in the sand.” Read the full article for some context and the full conversation, but here are a few selected bits.

John Fischer: I’ve read and understand the reasoning of Richard Bloch’s ruling that sustained the NHL’s rejection of the New Jersey Devils’ contract with Ilya Kovalchuk. However, between the ruling (p.15-16 in particular) and the broad view of Article 26.3, it is ambiguous as to what the “line in the sand” is now for future SPCs. What would cause a contract to be unacceptable in the league’s view going forward?

I know it was reported two days ago that the league has no issue with Vincent Lecavalier’s contract; so the “line” could be somewhere in between the parameters of both SPCs. However, I’d like your or the league’s opinion on this issue.

Bill Daly: While we do look (and have looked) at each contract individually, your suggested approach is the right one. There are a number of “guideposts” already out there from which Clubs can guide their conduct. No one factor is determinative, but all are important. How long is the contract, what is the player’s age at the time of the contract’s “expiration”, what is the value of the contract in its “back-end” and how does that compare to its “front-end” and its resulting AAV, what are the other relevant structural elements of the contract? All are relevant questions. And while this may sound subjective and ambiguous, its really not that much so. The Clubs are all very familiar with these considerations and know where we draw the line.

[snip]

At this point I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that we may further discuss with the Union to see if “bright lines” can be established. Absent those “bright lines,” it will be on a case-by-case, with existing guideposts established, the GMs understanding our concerns and sensitivities, and always with the ability of the Clubs to reach out to us to dicuss [sic].

My take is that Daly means “guidelines” or “boundaries” when he uses the phrase “bright lines.” (Or maybe he likes using highlighters.)

While Bettman’s right hand man didn’t get too specific, his answers do illuminate the fact that the NHL’s 30 teams aren’t in the dark about the league’s policies. That being said, it would certainly be interesting if the league was a little more transparent regarding their rules, regulations and decision making processes.

  1. bradford - Aug 13, 2010 at 8:33 PM

    When speaking of legal rules or standards, the phrase “bright line” generally refers to an explicit granular standard as opposed to a guideline or balancing test (e.g., “no contracts longer than 10 years” is a brightline rule, while “no contracts that end when it would be unreasonable to expect that a player would play to the completion of the contract” would be considered a guideline.)

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