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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    Patrick Kane’s streak hits 19 games, setting a new American record

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    When it comes to point streaks for U.S.-born NHL players, Patrick Kane now stands alone.

    With a power-play goal early in Saturday’s Blackhawks – Kings game, Kane extended his streak to 19 games, breaking a tie with Phil Kessel and Eddie Olczyk (who finished with at least a point in 18 straight).

    As of this writing, Kane has 11 goals and 19 assists during this 19-game streak. He also leads the NHL in scoring.

    Bobby Hull’s 21-game point streak stands as the Chicago Blackhawks’ overall team record, by the way.

    So, how would you protect a lead against the Stars?


    You know what they say: it’s easy to bash a strategy in hindsight.

    Slam that NFL head coach for going for it on fourth down … or settling for the field goal. Bury that MLB manager because he kept a pitcher in too long. And so on.

    “Score effects” settle in during almost any lopsided hockey game, yet the Dallas Stars present quite a conundrum: what’s the best way to put a way a team with this much firepower?

    Tonight may have presented the greatest evidence that this team won’t go away easy, as it seemed like the Minnesota Wild had the best of a tired Stars team* when they built a 3-0 lead.

    Instead, the Stars scored three third-period goals while Tyler Seguin capped the comeback with an overtime-winner.

    It was one of those bend-and-then-break moments for Minnesota. Dallas generated a 44-26 shot advantage, including a ridiculous 35-15 edge in the final two periods.

    Does that mean that Mike Yeo may have tried to play too conservatively with a healthy lead? It’s a possibility.

    On the other hand, would the Wild be wiser to try to run-and-gun with one of the most dangerous offenses in the NHL?

    It sure seems like a pick-your-poison situation. Which way would you lean, though?

    * – To be fair to Minnesota, each team was on back-to-backs.

    Price paid: Devils come back against Condon, Canadiens

    Mike Condon, John Moore,
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    If nothing else, the New Jersey Devils seem like they won’t be the sort of team a contender can essentially mark off as a “W” on their calendars.

    The Montreal Canadiens may not be in a position to take opponents lightly with Carey Price on the shelf, but whatever the case may be, they saw their four-game winning streak end in frustrating fashion on Saturday.

    After falling behind 2-0, the Devils scrapped their way back into it, eventually riding a John Moore overtime goal to a 3-2 OT win.

    If Montreal needs an obvious bright side to look on considering this hiccup, Alex Galchenyuk‘s hot weekend may be a good thing to look at.

    Tonight’s loss may smart a bit anyway, however.

    Metro’s best? Capitals keep winning, pass Rangers for division lead

    Jonathan Bernier; Matt Niskanen; Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau

    If you want to summarize the Capitals – Maple Leafs game in one sentence, you could do worse than:

    “Washington is hot as Jonathan Bernier is cold.”

    The Caps reeled off a 4-2 win against Toronto on Saturday, giving them five straight wins. They also jumped into first place in the Metropolitan Division today, as they keep climbing while the New York Rangers are experiencing some growing pains.

    Again, James Reimer can’t get healthy and back in Toronto’s net too soon:

    With this win, Washington is now 17-5-1, leading the Metro by one point with 35 standings points. They also hold a game in hand against the Rangers, and no other Metro team even has 30 right now.

    Measuring stick stretch begins

    Tonight’s game began a “prove-it” month-and-change for Washington.

    This contest began a three-game road trip, and they’ll also play six of seven away from Washington.

    It’s pretty rough through the start of 2016, really. The Capitals will only enjoy three home games through Jan. 9.

    In other words, the Capitals seem like a convincing East contender, but look out if they remain hot through the next 5-6 weeks.