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.

Scroll Down For:

    Report: Patrick Eaves is driving serious trade interest for Stars

    NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 17: Patrick Eaves #18 of the Dallas Stars skates against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on January 17, 2017 in New York City. The Stars defeated the Rangers 7-6.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
    Getty
    Leave a comment

    NHL teams are especially interested in trade talks with the Dallas Stars regarding Patrick Eaves, and it’s not because of his stellar beard-per-capita.

    Nope, it’s instead that he provides such excellent bang for the buck. You won’t find many players who already have 20+ goals and are making just $1 million, particularly outside of the artificial ceiling created by entry-level contracts.

    Eaves, 32, is enjoying arguably the year of his career, but it’s that bargain price that makes him the Stars’ best bargaining chip (and maybe one of the best in all of the league), according to Pierre LeBrun during the latest round of TSN’s Insider Trading.

    Interesting, Eaves could conceivably present a now vs. later debate for those in the bidding.

    While his cap-friendly contract makes him easy to drop in just about any contender situation, his affordability may prompt the Stars to ask for richer future assets.

    Of course, with an expiring contract, the Stars would still need to walk that tightrope between getting something for Eaves and letting him leave for nothing (assuming they wouldn’t re-sign him).

    That’s a delicate balancing act for any GM, and Jim Nill has mainly been accustomed to buying in Dallas so far.

    Want some more trade talk? Check out that full Insider Trading segment and also Sportsnet batting around ideas below.

    WATCH LIVE: Chicago Blackhawks at Minnesota Wild

    CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 15: Zach Parise #11 of the Minnesota Wild tries to get off a shot against Corey Crawford #50 of the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center on January 15, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. The Wild defeated the Blackhawks 3-2. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
    Getty
    2 Comments

    The Minnesota Wild haven’t lost often, particularly in the past month, but they did fall to the Chicago Blackhawks in their last meeting.

    That was a spirited affair that ended with a 4-3 overtime win for Chicago, a setback that began what’s been a mostly successful run of home games for the Wild.

    The Blackhawks aim for a similar result – ideally this time in regulation – to make up ground against the Wild in the Central Division.

    At the moment, the Wild have more points (84 to 77) a game in hand, more wins (39 to 36) and more ROW (36 to 34). Catching the Wild even with a win tonight wouldn’t be easy for Chicago; a regulation loss would make the odds extremely slim.

    If their last game was any indication, this should be a fun one on NBCSN. You can also watch online or via the NBC Sports App.

    Click here for the livestream.

    Rough night for Carey Price so far

    Leave a comment

    A large portion of the hockey-loving population in Montreal let out a big sigh on Tuesday night. Especially worrisome types may still be holding their breath about Carey Price, however.

    Many gasped after hearing that Price left pre-game warm-ups early after taking a Paul Byron shot up high.

    Video even surfaced of the moment, with Price looking very uncomfortable following the shot. (Byron might have felt uncomfortable too.)

    Yikes.

    It doesn’t sound like Price is going to miss time because of that incident. Of course, in many cases upon further reflection/once the adrenaline of competition wears off, he might think differently. So we’ll see.

    As you can see from the video above this post’s headline, the theme of Habs nearly hurting Price continued during the game, too. Sheesh.

    Trade deadline auditions? Quincey, Pateryn in action tonight

    GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 09:  Greg Pateryn #8 of the Montreal Canadiens in action during the first period of the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on February 9, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
    Getty
    1 Comment

    NHL executives, scouts and fans aren’t just watching their teams or the teams they’re jockeying with for playoff position tonight. They’re also likely taking a gander at potential trade deadline targets.

    At least two possible defensemen on the move are getting into lineups on Tuesday: Kyle Quincey with the New Jersey Devils (vs. the Senators) and Greg Pateryn for the Montreal Canadiens (against the Rangers).

    Will there be a dogged pursuit for Quincey?

    Quincey told the Bergen Record that the situation even has his dog on edge (gasp).

    “It’s not just me that’s on eggshells,” Quincey said. “It’s the wife and the kids and the dog. You’ve got to uproot your life. But I’m definitely not thinking about it. The only focus is getting some wins because we’re definitely not out of it.”

    (Sadly, some cursory searches did not provide insight as to the breed or name of Quincey’s dog. We’ll assume it’s first name is John.)

    Quincey’s getting his first bit of action since logging a little more than 23 minutes in a game on Feb. 4. He’s played in 51 games this season, generating 12 points and mediocre (but arguably adequate) possession numbers. At 31, a contender could conceivably target him if the price is low.

    Pateryn being shopped

    TSN’s Frank Seravalli reports that the Habs are indeed looking to move Pateryn, who returns to the lineup for the first time since Feb. 11 (replacing Nikita Nesterov, no stranger to changing locales).

    Pateryn is far less experienced than Quincey, but also has fresher legs at 26.

    He has six points in 22 games this season and some solid possession numbers.

    ***

    Now, neither of these blueliners are expected to make a big splash. Still, the price to even “rent” the likes of Kevin Shattenkirk could be huge, so teams might consider going after bargains like these two defensemen.

    Games like tonight’s contests could very well make or break decisions for some teams, for all we know.