Arbitrator Richard Bloch, now the most infamous man in New Jersey and the NHLPA, issued his own statement outlining his decision siding with the NHL against the NHLPA over Ilya Kovalchuk’s contract, voiding the deal.
In Bloch’s statement, the arbitrator says the Kovalchuk deal “is a retirement contract” and that it goes “well beyond the typical retirement age for NHL players.”
Until a full outline of the hearing and result gets released, if ever, we’ll be picking apart these words as to how they applied to the case. As it reads right now, Richard Bloch believes that players that have played hockey into their 40s are an extreme rarity. While there’s a handful of guys you could point to in the NHL right now that still play into their 40s and can play at an elite level (Nick Lidstrom, Mark Recchi, Mike Modano), Arbitrator Bloch is making the assumption that Ilya Kovalchuk will not be one of those players and that this contract was an outright sham because of it.
Here’s to hoping that Kovalchuk pulls a Gordie Howe and plays until he’s into his 50s just to prove a point. That said, the logic on everything works out to be a bit wonky. The contract Kovalchuk signs is agreed upon under the assumption that he’ll play until he’s 44 with maybe a wink-and-a-nod that if he called it a career before then that would be all right. The deal is nixed under the assumption that Kovalchuk won’t be playing until he’s that old. Anyone following along with the logical disconnect here and able to draw up a conclusion that’s based in fact is either a judge or a lawyer.
It’s understood that this now-voided contract was a clear attempt to make Kovalchuk’s contract number easier to digest, The issue that comes into play here given that career length and age were used as a reason to turn this down, the line is apparently drawn at 44 years-old. Rick DiPietro’s 15-year contract pays him until he’s 39 years-old. Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen’s contracts with the Red Wings will pay them until they’re 40. Marian Hossa’s deal with Chicago pays him until he’s 41, and Roberto Luongo’s deal with the Canucks pays him until he’s 42. If these are the parameters to be met for reaching a deal with a player, then re-designing a new long-term contract for Ilya Kovalchuk should be pretty simple, playing at 44 years-old is a no-no but being a goalie that plays until you’re 42 is apparently kosher.
With a dividing line that is seemingly that easy to draw up, getting a new long-term deal done should be relatively simple, but as we’ve seen with everything that’s involved Ilya Kovalchuk this summer, all is not as easy it appears.