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Paul Kelly: League would be foolish to go after Marc Savard's contract

Aug 29, 2010, 10:30 AM EDT

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Thumbnail image for paulkelly.jpgWhile we wait to see if the NHL will approve the latest contract for Ilya Kovalchuk, we ponder how the NHL’s investigation is going with the other contracts they’ve eye-balled as being potentially cap busting. While folks focused on Marian Hossa’s contract, Marc Savard’s contract extension with the Boston Bruins is one that seemed to slip under the radar of fans but not for the league.

Former executive director of the NHLPA Paul Kelly, however, feels that the league could be going down the wrong road if they choose to fight Savard’s deal. The Boston Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa has the details.

“Say you challenge Savard and the next arbitrator says, ‘This is perfectly legal.’ Well, now you’ve just thrown everything back into pandemonium and into a gray area,” Kelly said. “Right now, the NHL’s got a good, strong decision. There’s nothing to counteract it. They can wave it in front of the faces of GMs and say, ‘We’re not going to register your contract unless you cut it back.’ There’s a practical reason why the NHL should be content and sit tight.”

If the NHL red-flagged Savard’s contract, the players’ union would appeal. The mechanism would then be the same as what took place with Kovalchuk. The sides would agree on an independent arbitrator, who would then hear the case and make a decision independent of Bloch’s ruling. As such, there’s no guarantee the next arbitrator would side with the league once more.

“I don’t think the Kovalchuk case creates a precedent that would cause another arbitrator to pause very much if he found the facts of a second circumstance warrant a different result,” said Kelly. “You have to be careful what you wish for. The NHL is smart enough to know that even if they’ve won this one, it doesn’t mean you’ll roll over and prevail in every other one that comes down the pike.”

If there’s something this off-season needs it’s yet another bizarre turn of events in this witch hunt against potentially cap-circumventing contracts. Going all in against Savard’s deal only to have the league’s appeal turned on its head would certainly qualify as a game-changer. Or maybe it’d be a game re-changer at this point considering the hassle they’re putting Ilya Kovalchuk, Jay Grossman and Lou Lamoriello through.

Now I kind of want to see the NHL go after these other contracts just so we’ll have even more game-distracting chaos. After all this is said and done, I think we’ll all be able to qualify as paralegals.

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