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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    Therrien refutes report that Price is likely done for the season

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    Contrary to a report by La Presse newspaper, Montreal head coach Michel Therrien says that Canadiens goalie Carey Price could still play again this season.

    “We know what’s going on with Carey,” Therrien told reporters today. “It takes more time, obviously, than we were expecting. Like I said, he’s working extremely hard and he’s put in a lot of hours to make sure that he’s going to make that comeback. The fact that he’s working extremely hard is not to make sure that he’s going to look good this summer on the beach; he wants to come back and play for the Montreal Canadiens.”

    That being said, Price does not appear close to a return. He’s yet to practice with teammates. He’s yet to even skate in goalie gear.

    The Habs have 27 games left to get back into a playoff spot. They close out the regular season on April 9, less than two months from today.

    Related: With Price possibly done for the season, Scrivens has Dubnyk-like opportunity

    With trade deadline approaching, Canucks announce Edler out 6 weeks, Sutter 6-8 weeks

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    The Vancouver Canucks announced today that they’ll be without defenseman Alex Edler (fractured fibula) for six weeks and center Brandon Sutter (broken jaw that required surgery) for six to eight weeks.

    So basically those two are gone for the remainder of regular season, save for possibly a few games at the tail end of the schedule.

    For a bubble team that doesn’t boast a ton of depth, the injuries are significant. Edler leads the Canucks in ice time, averaging almost 25 minutes per game. Sutter, arguably their best defensive center, already missed a big chunk of games earlier in the season following sports-hernia surgery.

    But GM Jim Benning still isn’t giving up on the playoffs. Yesterday, he went on Vancouver radio and suggested the Canucks could actually be buyers at the trade deadline.

    Benning only has a couple of weeks to decide what to do with pending unrestricted free agents defenseman Dan Hamhuis and winger Radim Vrbata. The trade deadline is Feb. 29.

    The Canucks, currently just two points back of Nashville for the final wild-card spot, have a pair of winnable games coming up. They host Toronto Saturday and Minnesota Monday.

    Related: Preds entering key (and tough) stretch before trade deadline

    Jets activate Pavelec from IR, send Hellebuyck back to minors

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    Winnipeg’s goalie of the future is off to continue his development in the AHL.

    On Friday, the Jets activated veteran netminder Ondrej Pavelec from injured reserve and, in a subsequent move, sent rookie netminder Connor Hellebuyck back to their affiliate in Manitoba.

    Hellebuyck, 22, arrived in Winnipeg with great fanfare, having starred for Team USA at the 2015 Worlds while being named an AHL All-Star as well.

    This was his first-ever stint with the Jets, and it went OK — Hellebuyck posted an 13-11-1 record, .918 save percentage and 2.34 GAA — but he did struggle of late, getting hooked in two of his last three outings.

    Now, it’ll be interesting to see what happens with Pavelec.

    His numbers prior to getting hurt weren’t any better than Hellebuyck’s — .906 save percentage, 2.82 GAA — and there will be considerable rust to knock off, given he’s been out since late November with a knee issue.

    There’s also the long-term implication.

    Pavelec, a lightning rod for criticism over the last few seasons, has one year left on his five-year, $19.5 million extension, meaning he’ll be an unrestricted free agent in July of ’17.

    It could be his last season in Winnipeg (assuming he’s not bought out of the final year of his deal), which makes one wonder what GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has in store.

    It’s also worth noting there’s a third goalie in this equation: Michael Hutchinson, who’s a pending RFA.

    Kuznetsov passed concussion test, expected to play Saturday

    Washington Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov, from Russia, celebrates his goal during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Winnipeg Jets, Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2015, in Washington. The Capitals won 5-3. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
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    Feel free to breath a sigh of relief, Capitals fans — Evgeny Kuznetsov is okay.

    “During the end of the third period, Evgeny underwent and passed all tests pertaining to the league’s concussion protocol evaluation,” the Caps said today in a statement. “We expect him to take the morning skate tomorrow and play against the Stars later that night.”

    Kuznetsov left last night’s game versus the Wild in the third period after appearing to take the butt-end of Mikael Granlund’s stick to the face.

    Kuznetsov leads the Caps with 54 points.