Rich Chere from the Newark Star-Ledger is the bearer of bad news for fans of fiscal responsibility as we know it as he gives us the
official not-yet official (Tom Gulitti tweets that it’s not official yet but the NHL approving it won’t be an issue) contract numbers on the deal signed by Ilya Kovalchuk with the New Jersey Devils. Take a look at how things break down.
Ilya Kovalchuk’s blockbuster 17-year contract with the Devils is finally complete and approved by the NHL.
Here are the details of the deal, which has been filed with the NHL and NHL Players’ Association:
2010-11: $6 million
2011-12: $6 million
2012-13: $11.5 million
2013-14: $11.5 million
2014-15: $11.5 million
2015-16: $11.5 million
2016-17: $11.5 million
2017-18: $10.5 million
2018-19: $8.5 million
2019-20: $6.5 million
2020-21: $3.5 Million
Obviously, the most laughable part of it all is how the final five years of the contract pay out at a paltry $550,000 a year. Of course, those years are when Kovalchuk would be between the ages of 39-44 and could very well be done with hockey by that point, thus making it much easier for the Devils (or anyone else) to buy out his contract for an amount that won’t do anything to fudge with a team’s salary cap.
As for the meat and bones of the deal, think about this, when Ilya Kovalchuk is 34 years-old, he’ll be making $10.5 million that season. While the cap hit is all that matters in NHL economics it’s still an absolutely staggering number and one that not a lot of folks are too pleased with. Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune was one of the first to break the rumored and now official numbers and sounded off about the nature of deals like this and the snark is warm.
Take Ilya Kovalchuk’s contract: He signed a deal today with New Jersey for $102 million over 17 years for an annual cap hit of $6 million. He’s allegedly going to play until he’s 44, averaging $583,000 a year the final SIX years of his contract.
The NHL is allegedly “investigating” drastically-frontloaded contracts like Chris Pronger’s, Roberto Luongo’s, Marian Hossa’s, Johan Franzen’s and Henrik Zetterberg to see if there is any evidence of talk of retirement.
Even writing that sentence, I literally laughed out loud.
What’s stunning about this truly incredible deal is that this is all working on the assumption that the league won’t be locked out two or even three times by the time the deal reaches those waning years where Kovalchuk will be making what amounts to be the league minimum.
To put this in some kind of bizarro perspective, simply put, for the kind of player that the NHL has never seen reach unrestricted free agency, a bonafide superstar with talent beyond belief, it’s only fair that we’re seeing a mind-bending contract the likes of which we’ve never seen before and likely never will again. Even in the gigantic contracts used to sign the likes of Henrik Zetterberg, Chris Pronger and Marian Hossa, we’ve not seen one that had the numbers jump and dive so much before all in an effort to keep both the cap number down and to make the deal as pain-free for the signing team when the player reaches his twilight seasons.
Of course, not a lot of that means squat to most fans. They see a contract that goes on for an enternity that has an ultimate total that goes into nine (!!!) figures and in a league where greatness is appreciated while the fans still have some sense of grounded modesty, the reverberations are huge. While Ilya Kovalchuk might be on the fringe of the media spotlight in New Jersey, he’s now the major superstar the Devils franchise has never had before and he’s their guy for the next 17 seasons. Here’s to hoping that the Hockey Gods don’t frown upon a superstar getting rewarded.