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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    Perry to captain Canada at Worlds

    GLENDALE, AZ - APRIL 11:  Ryan Getzlaf #15 and Corey Perry #10 of the Anaheim Ducks watch from the bench during the first period of the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on April 11, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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    Corey Perry will spearhead the leadership group looking to guide Canada to its second straight gold medal at the World Hockey Championships.

    On Thursday, the Canadian contingent announced that Perry would captain the squad at this year’s tournament, to be held in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Joining him in the leadership group will be Colorado’s Matt Duchene, and Buffalo’s Ryan O'Reilly.

    “This is an energetic young team, and these three players bring a mixture of youth and experience in their leadership role on the ice and in the dressing room,” Canadian head coach Bill Peters said, per the Toronto Sun. “Their resumes speak for themselves — they know what it takes to compete at the highest level, and have all been part of pulling together Team Canada successes during these short-term events.”

    Unlike Duchene and O’Reilly, Perry wasn’t a part of last year’s championship team, but does have extensive international experience. He was part of the Canadian teams that captured gold at the ’10 Olympics in Vancouver at the ’14 games in Sochi.

    He’s also played in a pair of World Championships, but failed to medal both times.

    Trevor Daley is ‘in a good place’ now

    Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby (87) is congratulated by Trevor Daley (6) and Conor Sheary (43) after scoring a goal during the first period of Game 4 against the Washington Capitals in an NHL hockey Stanley Cup Eastern Conference semifinals in Pittsburgh, Wednesday, May 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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    In just a few short months, Trevor Daley has gone from not being a fit in Chicago to being an indispensable part of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

    The veteran defenseman played almost 30 minutes last night, by far the most of any Penguin. Despite the absence of Kris Letang and Olli Maatta, Pittsburgh was able to beat the Capitals in overtime and take a 3-1 series lead back to Washington.

    “It’s funny how this game works,” Daley said, per the Penguins’ website. “You stick with it and good things happen. I’m just grateful for the opportunity. I’m in a good place here. I’m enjoying it with a great group of guys. We just play. That’s been our motto since I got here, since (Mike Sullivan) got here – just play.”

    Traded to Pittsburgh in December, with Rob Scuderi going to the Blackhawks, Daley’s strengths were immediately utilized by Sullivan. The Penguins’ new head coach came in emphasizing the importance of breakouts, and that suited Daley just fine.

    “Over the years my game has been getting in the play, moving the puck,” Daley said after he was traded. “I’m not the biggest guy so I won’t push guys over. I get into areas quickly and try to be a good team guy.”

    It was simply a good match. And for that, GM Jim Rutherford should be applauded. The Penguins are one game away from the Eastern Conference Final, and Daley is a big reason why.

    Related: Penguins provided ‘fresh start’ for Daley

    Veteran d-man Volchenkov signs in KHL

    Arizona Coyotes v Nashville Predators
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    After not playing anywhere this year, longtime NHL blueliner Anton Volchenkov is back in action, having signed a deal with KHL club Admiral Vladivostok.

    The deal, announced by Admiral on Thursday, puts Volchenkov back on a team for the first time since suiting up with Nashville during the ’14-15 campaign. He appeared in 46 games for the Preds, recording seven assists.

    Prior to his time in Nashville, Volchenkov in over 600 games with the Senators and Devils. He’d established a reputation as a physical, hard-hitting d-man, but struggled with injury and mobility in the later stages of his time in New Jersey, and was ultimately bought out of his contract.

    Here’s your Stanley Cup playoffs schedule for tonight

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    The Stanley Cup playoffs continue with two games on Thursday night. You can catch tonight’s action via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.

    Dallas at St. Louis (8:00 p.m. ET) 

    The TV broadcast of Game 4 will be on NBCSN. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here. The Blues lead the series 2-1.

    San Jose at Nashville (9:00 p.m. ET)

    The TV broadcast of Game 4 will be on CNBC. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here. The Sharks lead the series 2-1.

    Here’s some relevant reading material to get you ready for tonight’s games:

    Fights, hits and a blown kiss: Stars and Blues get nasty

    Blues aim to raise money for victims of Fort McMurray fires

    Preds smash Sharks in Game 3 to get back in series

    Video: Black cat hits the ice before Sharks-Predators Game 1