How the rejected Kovalchuk deal was different and similar to other 'fishy' contracts

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for kovyandparise.jpgThere are two basic sides in the argument for or against the decision to invalidate Ilya Kovalchuk’s contract with the New Jersey Devils.

Many of the people who side with Kovalchuk and the NHLPA point to other curious contracts handed out, like the one Marian Hossa signed with Chicago (that will bring him into his 40s) or the one Henrik Zetterberg signed with Detroit. On the other hand, people who agree with the league’s point say that Kovalchuk’s deal was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Expecting him to play at age 44, they say, is absurd.

Whichever side you fall on, there’s no doubt that you’ll find some fishy numbers in many of these contracts.

Taking the details from Joe’s post about what would have been Kovalchuk’s deal plus the year-by-year salaries of Chris Pronger, Zetterberg and Hossa, I made a side-by-side comparison for the visual learners out there. I did this on the fly, so it might look a little “off,” but should be a nice visual aid for anyone else who wants to compare and contrast.

CapGeek.com was a valuable resource in this study, as usual. (Click to enlarge.)

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Kovalchuk’s deal vs. Pronger’s

How they’re alike: Both feature years with minimum wage salaries at the end, each one includes a pivotal season or two where the salary drops considerably – but not completely – before the bottom falls out.

prongervshossa.jpgHow they’re different: Though the Flyers assumed otherwise, Pronger’s deal is a 35+ contract which means his cap hit remains whether he retires or not. Pronger will obviously be much older when his contract begins. Pronger’s contract starts at its peak while Kovalchuk’s biggest years kick in starting in Year 3.

Kovalchuk’s deal vs. Hossa’s

How they’re alike: A big chunk of both deals see the players taking absurdly low salaries that many assume those guys will never actually play for (more on that after the jump). Both have a midpoint where there’s a serious though not extreme drop in salary before the bottom falls out. Hossa was a little older when he signed his deal, but they end pretty close age-wise.

How they’re different: Kovalchuk’s deal declines in a more staggered way, though: ($11.5M to 10.5 to 8.5 to 6.5 from 16-17 to 19-20). Hossa’s starts out the biggest while Kovalchuk’s biggest years begin in Year 3. While $1 million isn’t much for Hossa to play for, it’s slightly more conceivable than Kovalchuk’s minimum wage seasons.

Kovalchuk’s deal vs. Zetterberg’s

How they’re alike: Their biggest money doesn’t come right away. Both are structured somewhat similarly to Marian Hossa’s contract.

How they’re different: Zetterberg’s drop-off is arguably more arbupt (from 7 to 3.35 to 1). Like Hossa’s deal, it’s at least a bit more conceivable to imagine Zetteberg playing for $1 million than it is to see Kovalchuk playing for $550K.

After the jump, I’ll share a few more of the sticking points … but also why the Devils might have reason to feel wronged.


hzetterberg40.jpgAs Joe mentioned, the sticking point seems to be that the deal would assume Kovalchuk would play until he was 44. Another big factor is that those “wink wink retirement years” are even more slap-you-in-the-face obvious that the other curious contracts. Here’s how I look at the last few years for each player.

Pronger: One mid-range year ($4M) and two inconceivable years if it wasn’t a 35+ ($525K).

Hossa: One mid-range year ($4M) and four inconceivable years ($1M).

Zetterberg: One mid-range year ($3.35M) and two inconceivable years ($1M).

Kovalchuk: One mid-range year although his contract staggers down for four years ($3.5M) and six inconceivable years.

In summation, Kovalchuk’s deal is something of a Frankenstein Monster of the other bad contracts. It adds even more inconceivable years (basically as many as Hossa and Zetterberg probably won’t play combined) to the longest contract handed out and would end with him at the oldest age.The one saving grace is that it at least drops a little less abruptly than some of the other ones, going from $11.5M to $10.5M to $8.5M then $6.5M and finally hitting that mid-range year at $3.5M.

Such a mind-blowing combination gives some credence to the conspiracy theorists who wonder if Lou Lamoriello was “sending a message” with this deal and assumed it wouldn’t actually be approved. I’m not sure I believe that’s true, but it did feel like the Devils GM more or less slapped the league with a glove and challenged Gary Bettman & Co. to an arbitration duel.

Don’t be surprised if we provide another exhaustive study once a new Kovalchuk contract appears.

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    Antti Niemi had to make a save with his bare hand

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    Antti Niemi made 31 saves in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 4-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night, and 30 of them were pretty standard.

    The one that wasn’t came in the third period when he lost his glove during a scramble around the net and still managed to instinctively make a save on the puck. With his bare hand.

    Niemi said after the game, via the Tribune Review, that he thought the referees would stop the play after his glove came off, and when they didn’t “I just kept playing.”

    You can watch the play by clicking here.

    Probably not the type of thing you want to see happening because that looks like a great way to break a bone (or the entire hand) and get sidelined for extended period of time. Niemi said the officials told him there will no longer be an automatic whistle for goalies losing a glove or a blocker, but that one will remain for when they lose their helmet.

    The Penguins signed Niemi to a one-year contract this summer as a replacement for Marc-Andre Fleury after they lost him in the expansion draft to the Vegas Golden Knights. Niemi is looking to rebound from a tough year in Dallas. He will serve as Matt Murray‘s backup for the season.

    ‘A good start’ — Stamkos stands out in preseason debut

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    The Tampa Bay Lightning and National Hockey League unveiled the 2018 All-Star Game logo Friday.

    Far more importantly for the Bolts this evening was the return of their all-star center Steven Stamkos, as he made his preseason debut in what was his first game in 10 months.

    His 2016-17 season was abruptly ended in the middle of November because of a knee injury and subsequent surgery, making it the second time in four years his regular season had been disrupted by a major injury.

    It may still take a while before Stamkos feels truly comfortable coming back from this injury.But his performance on Friday proved to be a very promising start for No. 91, the Bolts and their fans in Tampa Bay.

    He didn’t score, but he assisted on two first period goals, including a nice set-up to linemate Nikita Kucherov, and the Lightning beat the Nashville Predators by a score of 3-1. Stamkos also received a healthy dose of ice time, playing more than 19 minutes, including 5:32 on the power play.

    His pass to Kucherov resulted in a power play goal.

    “It was exciting to get out there, I was pretty anxious about it… It was a good start, something to build on,” said Stamkos afterward, per the Lightning. “It was nice to just go through a game day, I haven’t done it in a long time… I was glad with how the first one went.”

    Golden Knights assign 2017 first-round picks Glass, Suzuki to junior

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    The Vegas Golden Knights continue to make roster moves during their inaugural training camp.

    On Friday, the expansion club assigned four players to junior. That includes 2017 first-round picks Cody Glass of the Portland Winterhawks and Nick Suzuki of the Owen Sound Attack.

    The Golden Knights made franchise history by taking Glass with the sixth overall pick and then selected Suzuki at 13th overall. Both players appeared in two preseason games for Vegas, each recording two points in the exhibition opener versus the Vancouver Canucks.

    “Nobody is going to rush (the rookies), that’s for sure,” Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant told the Las Vegas Sun following the club’s 9-4 win over Vancouver on Sunday.

    “We are in a position where we want to make sure they are ready to play. They are going to be good players when they’re healthy and strong enough to play in the league.”

    Vegas has all three 2017 first-round picks — Glass, Suzuki and Erik Brannstrom — signed to three-year entry-level contracts.

    Mitchell signed PTO with Blue Jackets — shortly after getting cut by Blackhawks

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    When the Chicago Blackhawks announced their roster moves yesterday, John Mitchell was among the cuts.

    His professional tryout with the Blackhawks had come to an end, as it did for veterans Mark Stuart and Drew Miller.

    It can be an uphill battle to make an NHL roster for veterans on professional tryouts. But for Mitchell, he quickly received another opportunity to attend a camp and try to land a spot, signing a PTO with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

    Mitchell, 32, has appeared in 548 NHL regular season games with 70 goals and 177 points.

    Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets are still without forward and restricted free agent Josh Anderson, as the two sides are stuck in a contract impasse right now. It was reported on Thursday that his representatives have been in contact with Hockey Canada about the 2018 Olympics.