NHL challenging the NHLPA over legal contracts is nothing new

kovalchuklouvanderbeek.jpgBelieve it or not, there’s actually some history with the NHL and the NHLPA when it comes to bickering over the legality of contracts. I know, this is really mind-bending news to get on a Sunday morning but it’s true and the New York Post’s Larry Brooks is once again spending his Sunday skewering the NHL over their decision to challenge Ilya Kovalchuk’s 17-year, $102 million contract with the New Jersey Devils.

This time, he has another fascinating read telling us about how the NHL challenged the contracts of Rob Blake, Joe Sakic and Pierre Turgeon in 2003. The contracts then were sent to arbitration because they were trying to pay those players during the eventual labor stoppage in 2004-2005 through signing bonuses. Much like with the Ilya Kovalchuk case, there are some very obvious similarities.

Signing bonuses were legal under the old CBA just as long-term, front-loaded contracts are legal under this CBA. Indeed, the league routinely registered contracts containing signing bonuses without protest, just as the league routinely has registered long-term, front-loaded contracts.

Suddenly, though, the NHL had problems with the Sakic, Blake and Turgeon contracts. The testimony given by Bill Daly, then the league’s senior VP and now its deputy commissioner, under questioning from arbitrator Joan Parker, is instructive and on point as it relates to the Kovalchuk issue.

Parker asked Daly what standard the league applied to determine whether a signing bonus would be considered illegal.

“The standard is . . . we have an internal discussion about it, that there’s an intent on behalf of the contracting parties to guarantee a part of the contract. And the standard we have been applying is a significant part of the contract for a potential [2004-05] work stoppage,” Daly said.

“It’s a materiality test. . . . There are a number of different [contract/signing bonus] structures we’ve seen. When it’s generally reasonable we have registered contracts in that scenario. When it’s clear on its face that the parties were expressly attempting to essentially guarantee part of the contract during a work stoppage, at least in our mind, we have rejected the contracts.”

What this boils down to is that the teams and the players are more than well aware of what the current situations are and were in these cases, it’s just that there’s nothing in the collective bargaining agreement there to stop anyone from doing anything about it. As arbitrator Joan Parker noted in 2003:

“The difficulty Daly had in articulating the standard by which the League challenged the Blake, Sakic and Turgeon [contracts] is troublesome, particularly because several provisions of the Collective Bargaining Agreement suggest that Clubs and players have substantial flexibility to negotiate compensation packages as they wish.”

How did the league fare in their squabble with Blake, Sakic and Turgeon? Brooks tells us and then hits it out of the park.

Joan Parker ruled for the NHLPA and against the NHL in the case of Sakic, et al, rebuking the league for attempting to gain collective bargaining goals through arbitration.

Seven years later, the league has reapplied its beautiful-mind litmus test to front-loaded contracts, trying to win something now it could not win last time in collective bargaining.

The standard is simple. If Bettman doesn’t like it, the league tries to stop it. Only the arbitrator has the power to stop Bettman.

A bit dramatic, yes, but it’s important to note how strong the arbitrators role in this whole mess with Kovalchuk actually is. A decision in favor of the NHL would set a dangerous precedent because it would essentially be putting a previously unknown qualifier in the current collective bargaining agreement and essentially set the table perfectly for a monstrous labor battle in 2012. Things should prove to be interesting as the Kovalchuk contract hearing is slated to begin this week.

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    PHT Morning Skate: This artist paints a picture while singing the national anthem

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    PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

    –Artist Joe Everson  paints an amazing picture while singing the national anthem prior to an ECHL game. (Top)

    –Is Patrice Bergeron the greatest defensive forward of all-time? (The Hockey News)

    –Caps rookie Zach Sanford sang “Sweet Caroline” during the team’s Halloween party. (CSN Mid-Atlantic)

    –This goalie makes his AHL debut and he was backed up by…his father! (NHL)

    Auston Matthews‘ Halloween costume had a political twist. (The Score)

    –10 NHL players that still don’t look right in their new uniforms. (Bardown)

    Report: Ducks put Despres on long-term injured reserve

    FILE - In this Sept. 22, 2015, file photo, Anaheim Ducks defenseman Simon Despres skates before an NHL preseason hockey game against the Colorado Avalanche in Denver. Despres has agreed to a five-year contract extension with the Ducks on Friday, Oct. 9, 2015, solidifying his role in Anaheim after joining the club in a trade last season. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey, File)
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    Simon Despres has played only once this season, back on Oct. 13, due to injury.

    It now appears the Anaheim Ducks don’t see the 25-year-old defenseman returning to their lineup any time soon.

    On Sunday, TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported on Twitter that the Ducks placed Despres, who carries an average annual value of $3.7 million, on long-term injured reserve, providing Anaheim with some flexibility in the salary cap situation.

    By placing Despres on LTIR, it’s been suggested this could possibly allow the Ducks to sign restricted free agent defenseman Hampus Lindholm.

    Lindholm, 22, missed training camp, instead deciding to stay in Sweden while he awaits a deal with the Ducks. Six games into Anaheim’s season, and still no deal.

    It was reported last month that Lindholm was seeking a deal of eight years, and at least $6 million per season.

    Last week, on TSN’s Insider Trading, McKenzie suggested the two sides could be about $250,000, annually, apart. He also added that there is a “cap hit penalty” when restricted free agents don’t get signed before the season begins.

    “For every day that (Lindholm) is not signed in this season, the cap hit for the team will increase by about $30,000 if he were to agree to a $5.5 million deal,” McKenzie reported.

    “Let’s say he agrees to a deal that’s $5.5 million AAV, well the cap hit’s going to be up around $5.8 (million) as of now, for each day that goes on.”

    Comeback Canucks? Not against the Ducks

    ANAHEIM, CA - OCTOBER 23:  Alexander Edler #23 and Philip Larsen #63 of the Vancouver Canucks look on after Corey Perry #10 of the Anaheim Ducks reacts to scoring a goal during the third  period of a game at Honda Center on October 23, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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    The Vancouver Canucks have made a habit of third-period comebacks early this season. Playing with the lead, though? Not so much.

    Despite their early penchant for late-game magic — certainly not a sustainable method of winning in the long-term — the Canucks were unable to score a come-from-behind win against the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday.

    Instead, they lost 4-2, as Nick Ritchie and Corey Perry scored late in the third period to nullify any chance of a Vancouver comeback.

    Henrik Sedin had gotten the Canucks back into a tied game early in the final period, before the Ducks killed off a Vancouver power play and then surged ahead for good.

    It’s Vancouver’s first regulation loss of the season. In six games, the Canucks have played with the lead only once.

    Really, the score flattered the Canucks, playing the second half of a back-to-back set in California. The Ducks dominated possession, but goalie Ryan Miller kept the Canucks in it until late in regulation.

    The Canucks are now 4-1-1. That’s still a good start, but there have been signs lately that they could soon be served a reality check.


    Meanwhile, the Ducks have won two in a row after losing their first four games to start the season.

    It was promising that their best players were their best players in Anaheim’s home opener.

    Ryan Getzlaf had three assists. Corey Perry had an assist on the winner and scored to put this one away. Defenseman Cam Fowler, who has been at the center of trade speculation in the past few months, scored Sunday and is now up to three goals, with points in four of six games.

    “He’s played great,” Getzlaf recently told the Orange County Register. “Cam put a lot on his shoulders last year. He had a great year for us last year and it gets overlooked a little bit because he does it in a little bit quieter way. He’s not flashy.

    “I thought his play has carried over from last year. He’s continued to play the same way and at a high level.”

    This win puts the Ducks within a point of the San Jose Sharks. The two California rivals face each other Tuesday in San Jose.

    Video: Dan Girardi’s first goal in nearly a year lifts Rangers to victory

    FILE - In this Feb. 11, 2012, file photo, New York Rangers' Dan Girardi looks on during an NHL hockey game against the Philadelphia Flyers in Philadelphia. The Rangers say they have agreed to terms with Girardi on a multiyear contract extension, taking the key defenseman off the trading block and keeping him away from unrestricted free agency. The deal was announced Friday, Feb. 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)
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    An offensive defenseman, Dan Girardi is not.

    His last goal prior to this weekend? Nov. 12, 2015. It’s been a while. Almost an entire year now. But in his return to the New York Rangers lineup on Sunday, the 32-year-old Girardi was able to bust his scoring slump on a slap shot from the blue line that beat Arizona Coyotes goalie Louis Domingue.

    The Rangers eventually won by a final score of 3-2, with Girardi’s goal counting as the winner. He scored only twice last season, and hasn’t scored more than five goals in a single season since 2009-10.