The Kovalchuk decision: What happens after it's over

Thumbnail image for kovalchuklouvanderbeek.jpgThe arguments have been said and heard in the Ilya Kovalchuk contract grievance hearing and both the NHL and Kovalchuk await the decision by systems arbitrator Richard Bloch, our minds turn to just what will happen next. Whether Bloch decides to side with Ilya Kovalchuk, his agent Jay Grossman, and the New Jersey Devils or with the NHL and Gary Bettman will be found out at the latest by Monday and at the earliest on Friday.

What can we look forward to though depending on the outcomes? Let’s have a look.

If the Devils/Kovalchuk win the case

If the arbitrator sides with the New Jersey Devils and Ilya Kovalchuk, his landmark 17-year, $102 million stands tall and the Devils get their man. It’s just that simple. Kovalchuk’s contract will become the new pariah amongst critics of salary cap-bending deals. Gone are the fingers pointed towards Marian Hossa, Henrik Zetterberg and Marc Savard and Ilya Kovalchuk is your new “overpaid” ruler of the NHL. All that aside, the current collective bargaining agreement is upheld to the letter and teams looking to retain any of their superstar players before a potential labor armageddon in 2012 have the blueprint for how to keep a player set in stone. Kovalchuk’s contract is, by far, the biggest challenger to how far you can make the system work for you and having the arbitrator uphold this deal makes it the law of the land that signing a contract like this is OK.

The NHL losing the case will have a profound effect on how labor negotiations go come 2012, however. This contract and this situation will be held up by the NHLs owners, despite the profound apparent hypocrisy, as the reason why they need to “fix” things once again so they can make things work better for those owners who aren’t willing to/can’t sign players to “lifetime” deals. Long-term contracts are risky, of course, but the fallback option of being able to buy out contracts like these are there at the ready for teams to make use of. While there are ways to make it painful against the cap to do this (just ask the Islanders about Alexei Yashin) there is always a way to get out of these contracts… So long as the player isn’t 35 years-old when he signs it (Tim Thomas and Chris Pronger say hello).

If the NHL wins the case

Should the NHL come out on top in this dispute, Ilya Kovalchuk once again becomes an unrestricted free agent and the contract is thrown out the window. While this would open the door for other teams (read: the Los Angeles Kings) to get back into the hunt the likelihood of that happening seems pretty small. Consider this, Kovalchuk and the Devils went ahead with a press conference to announce that he’d be a New Jersey Devil. The chances that the Devils would walk away after losing this hearing and say, “Forget it, we don’t want you now” are impossibly small. More than likely, the Devils will have a contract re-worked within the parameters seen as “allowable” by the league. In other words, look for Kovalchuk and the Devils to do a contract similar to what guys like Marian Hossa, Henrik Zetterberg and Alexander Ovechkin have. In other words, the Devils will just follow those league-approved examples of how to spread the money around.

The aftershock of this contract being rejected will be huge. While the league won’t be able to go back and start nixing other long contracts that are similar to that of Kovalchuk’s, the chances of seeing other teams attempt to lock down their elite players through similar means drops to virtually nil. After all, with that sort of ace in the hole for the league to use, what team would want to go through this whole process with their own players knowing full well that the league will have this case held up as a precedent to shoot down anything else.

A win for the league also sets the terms for the NHLPA’s argument against the owners in 2012. I know labor talk is scary and generally pretty boring, but this is the future we’ve got to deal with and it’s going to get ugly one way or another. Having the NHLPA get slapped in the face will only make their resolve stronger to win the next round of collective bargaining in 2012. Considering that they lost the last round and yet are still making out pretty well all things considered, getting their one way to actually “beat the man” and make money shoved back in their face will be a very sore point.

 

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    Oshie’s hat trick lets Caps just barely squeak by Penguins in OT

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    What a start.

    This series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals might be headlined by Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, but as many have said in the lead-up to tonight’s opener, there is so much more to this second round matchup than that. Washington’s 4-3 overtime victory in Game 1 tonight could be offered up as Exhibit A.

    This game had everything except big offensive showings from Crosby and Ovechkin. They had their moments, but in the end combined for just one assist.

    What we got instead was a hat trick by T.J. Oshie that was completed with a game-winning goal that made it past the line by such a narrow margin that it warranted a video review:

    This game also featured a sequence of three goals in 90 seconds and yet also some great saves by goaltenders Braden Holtby and Matt Murray. At the other end of the spectrum, there was a controversial hit by Tom Wilson that might lead to a suspension.

    There was even some odd stuff. Like how Jay Beagle got a stick stuck in his equipment.

    Twice:

    If this game sets the tone for the rest of the series, then we should be in for a closely contested, highlight filled affair.

    NOTES:

    Nick Bonino had a goal and an assist for the Penguins. Evgeni Malkin and Ben Lovejoy accounted for the Penguins’ other markers.

    — Capitals forward Andre Burakovsky scored the game’s opening goal. It was his first marker of the 2016 playoffs.

    — Washington outshot Pittsburgh 15-9 in the first period, but Pittsburgh ended up with a 45-35 edge.

    — This is the first time in the 2016 playoffs that Braden Holtby has allowed more than two goals. He surrendered just five goals in six games to Philadelphia.

    — Matt Murray suffered his first career postseason loss after winning three straight contests against the New York Rangers.

    Video: Wilson delivers late, knee-on-knee hit to Sheary

    Wilson hit
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    Tom Wilson has already found himself in a controversy for delivering a late, knee-on-knee hit to Penguins forward Conor Sheary in the third period of Game 1 Thursday night.

    You can see that incident below:

    Wilson spent two minutes in the sin bin earlier in the contest for crosschecking Evgeni Malkin, but there was no penalty on this play.

    Fortunately Conor Sheary was able to stay in the game. The question now is if Wilson’s actions will lead to him being suspended prior to Game 2.

    This isn’t Wilson’s first brush with controversy. He delivered a big hit to Brayden Schenn in 2013, but Wilson wasn’t suspended for that incident. Lubomir Visnovsky’s final campaign was cut short due to a check by Wilson that angered the New York Islanders. More recently, Nikita Zadorov was concussed by a crushing blow from the Capitals forward.

    In 231 career regular season games, Wilson has 50 points and 486 penalty minutes.

    Related: Wilson says ‘I’ve never been a dirty hitter’ after teams voice complaints

    Video: Penguins, Caps combine for three goals in 90 seconds

    Oshie goal
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    For the first 30 minutes of Game 1 between Pittsburgh and Washington it looked like goaltenders Matt Murray and Braden Holtby might outshine these star-studded offenses. Then the floodgates opened up, if only for a moment.

    Washington already had a 1-0 lead going into the second frame courtesy of Andre Burakovsky‘s first marker of the 2016 playoffs, but Ben Lovejoy and Evgeni Malkin scored back-to-back goals within the span of 57 seconds midway through the second period to tilt the scale in Pittsburgh’s favor. That lead didn’t last for long though as Capitals forward T.J. Oshie got a breakaway opportunity and took full advantage of it.

    In total, there were three goals scored in the span of just 90 seconds and you can see all of them below:

    After that sequence, the 2-2 tie held for the remainder of the frame. However, Oshie was able to reassert Washington’s edge just 3:23 minutes into the third period.

    Video: Beagle gets stick stuck in visor

    Beagle
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    Through 40 minutes of action in Game 1 of the second round series between Pittsburgh and Washington and we’ve already seen some big moments, along with a pretty unusual one.

    Beagle ended up with a stick lodged into his visor towards the end of the second frame. He tried to get it out himself, but ended up having to go to the bench for assistance. You can see that below: