Agents say that the NHL can't block Kovalchuk's contract

kovalchukpresser3.jpgThrough the many twists and turns of the Ilya Kovalchuk contract squabble with the Devils, we’ve been wondering about what, exactly, the league can do about things. The NHL has already done their part in rejecting the deal and while we wait to hear from the NHLPA about when/if they’ll file a grievance with the league over that, Michael Traikos of The National Post has polled some NHL agents about what they think will happen and the response was vitriolic.

But several player agents said if the matter goes before an arbitrator, the league would soon find out that it “doesn’t have much of a leg to stand on.”

“I can tell you that during bargaining, that the league was not successful in negotiating rules to limit the length of contract a player can sign with a club,” said player agent Ian Pulver, who was one of the authors of the CBA. “So the NHL is going to have to show evidence that the club and the player were trying to defeat rules in the collective agreement, because they can’t certainly prove that a player will not play when he’s 44 years old.

“You have to have the evidence to support that. Saying ‘we think’ is not strong enough.”

Indeed, there is nothing in the language of the CBA that limits the number of years on a player contract. Neither is there any proof that Kovalchuk will not be playing in 2026-27.

What’s been abundantly clear through this whole mess that the league has created is that they’re again being stung by their own wild inconsistency. Contracts similar to Kovalchuk’s deal by Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Marian Hossa, Marc Savard and Chris Pronger were all allowed by the league. Whether they were allowed begrudgingly or not doesn’t matter, the point is they were OK’d by the league and that’s that. The league picking this deal at this moment in time, just two years before the league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement expires with the NHLPA, is not coincidental.
The owners, courtesy of Gary Bettman, are setting up their own argument to be had with the NHLPA in 2012 when the owners complain about the salary structure and how things have ballooned out of control, they can use this one instance to say, “Listen, we tried to get things under control here but you, the players, decided to make a big mess out of things. We want things to be stricter.” Never mind that history up until this moment with Ilya Kovalchuk dictates otherwise, this is where they are taking a stand and where they’re attempting to “change the game” for themselves. Unfortunately for the owners and for Gary Bettman, everyone sees right through this.
Further from Traikos’ piece:

The Devils have up until Monday to renegotiate a new deal with Kovalchuk, or allow the NHLPA to file a grievance and send the matter to an independent arbitrator. After that, the league might find out if it will have to live with its mistakes until the next CBA is negotiated.

“The fact that they’re not registering this contract when it clearly does not circumvent anything in the CBA is a condemnation of Gary Bettman and Bill Daly’s skills,” said one agent, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “If they think this is a bad deal, then they failed to do their jobs.

“Why don’t they suck it up and be men and accept that they screwed up?”

Asking billionaires used to getting their way to fess up and take responsibility for a mistake is often like trying to get blood from a stone. These are the sorts of things CBA negotiations get ugly over, and this is just the beginning. The fact that the NHLs case against Kovalchuk’s deal is so poor makes it feel like this is all set up to make the players look badly. We’ve been down this road before in the NHL and fans and curious onlookers alike didn’t buy into that blame game before, and there’s no chance that it works this time.

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    Coyotes’ defensive makeover continues with Luke Schenn signing

    SAN JOSE, CA - APRIL 20:  Luke Schenn #52 of the Los Angeles Kings in action against the San Jose Sharks in Game Four of the Western Conference First Round during the NHL 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs at SAP Center on April 20, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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    While Brayden Schenn hopes to hammer out a favorable deal with the Philadelphia Flyers, his brother Luke Schenn inked a two-year contract with the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday.

    Arizona didn’t confirm these details, but the cap hit looks to be $1.25 million, according to reporters including Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

    “We are very pleased to sign Luke to a two-year contract,” New Coyotes GM John Chayka said. “He’s a good, young defenseman and we feel we can optimize his performance here. He will be a solid addition to our blue line.”

    Chayka is making some significant changes to the Coyotes’ blueline, even if Oliver Ekman-Larsson is still the star of that group.

    The Coyotes traded for and then signed Alex Goligoski. They possibly grabbed a falling star in the draft, too, as they selected Jacob Chychrun. Adding Schenn might not be the last move, either.

    Schenn isn’t necessarily an analytics darling, but a two-year, $2.5 million deal is reasonable even with some flaws. This contract seems even more reasonable when you consider the five-year, $18 million deal that just expired.

    Report: Maple Leafs, Holland are about $1M apart

    TORONTO, ON - APRIL 11: Peter Holland #24 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates up the ice during NHL action against the Montreal Canadiens at the Air Canada Centre April 11, 2015 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)
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    Peter Holland‘s submitted salary request for arbitration is reportedly more than double what the Toronto Maple Leafs proposed.

    With that in mind, Monday’s pending hearing serves as a challenging deadline.

    Holland’s asking for $2.1 million in 2016-17 while Toronto is offering $900K, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

    This comes a day after the Maple Leafs placed Holland on waivers, advancing the argument that he’d be worthy of a two-way deal. He cleared waivers today.

    Granted, the Globe & Mail’s James Mirtle wonders if Holland would clear waivers under normal circumstances:

    Holland is a solid player, generating 27 points in 65 games with Toronto last season. He’s a nice enough piece, but with the Maple Leafs in rebuild mode, they’re not exactly anxious to pay supporting cast members more than necessary.

    With such a context in mind, it should be intriguing to see how much either side will budge.

    At the moment, the Maple Leafs seem to hold the advantage.

    Report: Flyers, Schenn disagree on money, term with arbitration looming

    PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 22:  Brayden Schenn #10 of the Philadelphia Flyers celebrates his goal in the second period against the New York Rangers on April 7, 2015 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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    It sounds like the Philadelphia Flyers have some work to do if they hope to avoid an arbitration hearing with Brayden Schenn.

    The session would take place on Monday, so the clock is ticking.

    While the differences in opinion aren’t outright enormous, the Flyers still need to clean up their cap situation, so every $1 million counts. That – plus the length of a deal – seem to be the issue for the 24-year-old forward and the Flyers, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman:

    With the Flyers aiming for a two-year agreement while Schenn just wants one, it’s not quite as simple as merely saying “split the difference.”

    Then again, that general logic could prove helpful. Perhaps the best path to a deal would be for the Flyers to edge closer to $5.5 million while convincing Schenn to sign for two years rather than one?

    Of course, the Flyers could also offer Schenn more security in exchange for giving up some UFA years:

    The physical forward really started to show why he was the fifth pick of the 2009 NHL Draft last season, setting career-highs in goals (26), assists (33) and points (59).

    He’s coming off of a two-year, $5 million contract, so Schenn can take heart in realizing he’s heading toward a healthy raise even if he doesn’t get everything he’s asking for.

    Wild, Schroeder settle on two-way deal

    UNIONDALE, NY - MARCH 24: Jordan Schroeder #10 of the Minnesota Wild skates against the New York Islanders at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on March 24, 2015 in Uniondale, New York. The Wild defeated teh Islanders 2-1 in the shootout.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    Jordan Schroeder might be a depth player for the Minnesota Wild – at least when he’s with the big club – yet his situation provided a decent dollop of drama.

    The two sides avoided salary arbitration by settling on a deal on Saturday, but not before the Wild “sent a message” by putting him on waivers.

    That message was received, as Schroeder’s one-year contract is a two-way deal.

    CBC’s Tim Wharnsby has the details regarding how the salary works out:

    Schroeder has 107 regular season games under his belt, yet he’s played more games with the Iowa Wild than the Minnesota Wild since joining the organization.

    He might not like it, but a two-way deal makes sense considering his standing with the team.

    Granted, there’s the outside chance he’ll flourish under Bruce Boudreau; Schroeder is still just 25 and was the 22nd pick of the 2009 NHL Draft.

    If he unexpectedly blossoms, he’d have a lot more leverage next time around.