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Report: NHL shoots down another Kovalchuk contract with Devils

Aug 25, 2010, 9:27 AM EDT

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for kovalchuklouvanderbeek.jpgIt turns out the Ilya Kovalchuk situation just grows stranger and more frustrating for he and the New Jersey Devils. We told you the other day that Kovalchuk, his agent Jay Grossman, Devils GM Lou Lamoriello and Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek were at the NHL offices in Manhattan leading to speculation that a new contract would be imminent. As it turns out, a new contract was drawn up but the NHL apparently has shot it down. The New York Post’s Mark Everson has the details.

The Devils’ hopes to sign Ilya Kovalchuk have been confounded again, denied encouragement from the NHL on their second try at a contract, The Post has learned.

Now, the NHL is risking being the culprit if one of its most talented players leaves for Russia, as time becomes a factor in Kovalchuk’s decision where to play.

The stakes are simple and huge as the Devils and Kovalchuk resume trying to satisfy themselves and the league. That task became even more difficult yesterday as the NHL continued its hard line by criticizing the framework of a deal the Devils and Kovalchuk’s camp optimistically presented for comment Monday.

This was a fear I had after the first Kovalchuk contract was denied by the league and arbitrator Richard Bloch upheld the NHL’s decision. The fear being that now that the league got their way they’d find a way to keep the most desirable free agent the league has seen in the cap era from blowing the lid off of how a superstar player gets paid in such a restrictive time. Now, while the league snoops around at other players’ contracts, it’s up to Lamoriello, Kovalchuk and Grossman to feel their way around blindly without much guidance from the league to find a deal that works.

While the possibility of Kovalchuk bolting to Russia is slim and virtually non-existent, it’s a threat nonetheless, especially if Kovalchuk grows weary of being jerked around by the NHL. Instead, there’s an invisible line in the sand between what’s questionable (contracts like those of what Marian Hossa and Marc Savard have) and what’s OK (Vincent Lecavalier’s deal). The differences between some of those deals are slim which makes the process that Kovalchuk and the NHL are going through that much more frustrating. It will be fascinating to see how this finally all plays out.

  1. Backyard-Hockey.com - Aug 25, 2010 at 9:59 AM

    The NHL made a major mistake in rejecting this contract. In a time when their best interests are to get their superstars on the ice and in front of prospective fans, they’re fiddling around with agreed-upon contracts and daring Europeans to return home. I just don’t get it. Why not just allow the original Kovalchuk contract (as crazy as it was), then fix the loophole when the CBA is renewed? The NHL rewriting the rules as they go. If they’re going to do that, why have a CBA in the first place?

  2. The_Emperor - Aug 25, 2010 at 10:08 AM

    Does the NHL have a problem with Kovalchuk being in New Jersey or something? This is ridiculous. He’ll be in the KHL by week’s end…

  3. Alex - Aug 25, 2010 at 10:27 AM

    Rejecting the first contract was good … you cant let the CBA get circumvented like that (They should have stopped it sooner with other contracts but….nonetheless)
    As for the second we wont know until the number come out… and if the numbers were truely with the spirit of the CBA you canbet your firstborn the agent will leak them. If they weren’t with the spirit of the CBA you can bet he won’t and we will hear nothing but annymous criticisms.

  4. James - Aug 25, 2010 at 10:51 AM

    I have a simple solution to this:
    Copy and Paste the Lecavalier deal.
    The problem is that the Devils likely don’t want anything to do with a $7.7M per year cap hit like the Lecavalier deal has with Parise hitting RFA status next summer.
    The NHL needs to worry about the salary cap more than keeping Kovy in NA, IMO.

  5. Fecteau - Aug 25, 2010 at 12:12 PM

    Well… There goes another top level talent that most likely will move to what’s obviously becoming greener pastures in the KHL.
    The NHL is more concerned about changing, YET AGAIN, the league rules. Although I think that its safe to say that there could be some changes that would make the league more desirable and maybe more marketable, you’ll never be able to compete with the NFL so let’s focus on keeping the talent within the NHL and find ways to make the sport more desirable to watch on TV. How many times has the NHL changed the goalie regulations, or skater requirements or certain penalties? The average fan can’t keep up with the altered rules and may soon give up trying…
    I must say I’ve been very happy that there hasn’t been so many repeat Cup Winners like there has been when the league was watered down, because once expansion took place, you had the Flyers and Bruins of the 70s that were fairly dominant, then the Islanders and Oilers of the 80s, but when the league accepted more and more European players, the NHL became a bit more balanced. The cap makes things MORE balanced, but there needs to be a soft cap where teams can pay a high tax for going above the cap and that tax is distributed amongst teams that are at or below the cap. Pretty much what they do in the MLB… And how many of those teams have a dynasty other than the Yankees in the late 90s early 2000s? (they weren’t even a completely bought team, they were more a home grown talent team with Jeter, Rivera, Posada, Pettitte, etc coming up and becoming superstars). In other words, it tends to work!!!
    So what’s next? Many European talents may go back sooner or later. Alex Ovechkin is signed to a long term deal, but after that a lot of guys don’t have long term contracts. If the KHL has a better package and no salary caps they will steal some of the best players in the world. Could we imagine a league that gets watered down when we have no Henrik Lunquist, Pavel Datsyuk, Alex Semin, Henrik Zetterberg, etc? I guess we’ll have to wait and see…

  6. StakeX - Aug 25, 2010 at 4:39 PM

    The problem is Kovalchuk wasn’t so much money, the Devils have to try and get creative to make a contract that lowers the cap hit. However, they need to lower it so much that they have no choice but to try and get around the CBA. Say the league shouldn’t stop them all you want, but its there for a reason and if things kept going the way they were we would be seeing contracts that run until guys are 50, paying them peanuts the last few years.
    It might not be a great situation for the league, but Kovalchuk and the Devils have created this mess… NOT the NHL. At this point Kovalchuk just looks like a money hungry player who dosen’t care about winning as much as he dose being the highest paid hockey player in the world. While I can’t 100% say I would blame him, I also dont think too many people would really care if he split to Russia.

  7. Dan1218 - Aug 26, 2010 at 12:26 AM

    Kovalchuk & the Devils created this mess? are you serious? The NHL created this by allowing the Hossa, Zetterberg, Luongo, Pronger, etc contracts to go through. True the devils did push the envelope, but it was still within the framework of the CBA rules.
    If this was the Rangers submitting it would go through, take that to the bank. If this was a contract for Sid it would go through as well. There has to be a personal agenda with Bettman & Lou or maybe Bettman & Vanderbeek.
    I still think that come opening night, Kovalchuk will be in Newark, but if Kovy goes to the KHL it would be a disaster for the NHL. You cant let your top players, in their prime, go to another league to play over a few bucks.

  8. Fecteau - Aug 26, 2010 at 8:50 AM

    The NHL created this when they didn’t police the league BEFORE the CBA goes into effect. It makes sense to me to put stipulations in that CBA so that in a contract no annual salary is less than half the top amount; so if Kovalchuk’s highest payout in a year is 10 million, then the lowest cannot be below 5 million. Then there’s a limit based on player age on how long the contract is for. A 26 year old can sign a 13 year contract (up to the age of 39) but someone who’s 31 can only sign a contract for 7-8 years. These contracts are bogus and now the league will most likely lose some top level talent over this.
    The NHL needs to look at the overall marketing picture. If they make it impossible for a player to sign a contract, then that individual may leave. This may turn off fans. If they don’t want to play in the Olympics in Sochi, this may turn off more fans, or prevent more new fans from seeing the players before. Hockey becomes a hell of a lot more popular in the US around the Olympics, and it helps when the US wins the Silver and were one goal away from the Gold!
    NHL, please take your heads out of your respective a$$es! How many fans do you need to boot?

  9. Jude - Aug 26, 2010 at 12:39 PM

    You are exactly right! I truly believe there is a personal agenda with Bettman and the Devils… Bettman will find that the “welcome mat” has disappeared from the Rock!

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