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


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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    Canucks’ Tryamkin refuses AHL assignment, would prefer to be a healthy scratch apparently

    EDMONTON, AB - APRIL 6:  Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers battles against Nikita Tryamkin #88 of the Vancouver Canucks on April 6, 2016 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The game was the final game the Oilers played at Rexall Place before moving to Rogers Place next season. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)
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    The Vancouver Canucks have an interesting situation with big Russian defenseman Nikita Tryamkin. Six games into season, the 22-year-old defenseman has yet to get into the lineup, and he’s been brandishing the KHL out-clause in his contract by refusing an assignment to the AHL.

    “There is no possibility that he will play in the American Hockey League,” GM Jim Benning said this weekend, per the Vancouver Sun. “We’ve explored that. We’ve talked to him and his agent and he has said no. In a perfect world, we’d like him to get some games (in the minors). But it is what it is. He is working hard in practice and doing extra work.”

    Tryamkin was the 66th overall pick in the 2014 draft, an enticing project with size and strength, one who naturally drew comparisons to Zdeno Chara. He came to North America late last season, after his fourth KHL campaign with Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg had finished, and played 13 games (1G, 1A) for the Canucks down the (meaningless) stretch.

    It remains to be seen when he’ll get into a game again. Chris Tanev got banged up Sunday in Anaheim and is questionable for tomorrow’s home date against Ottawa, but Tanev is more likely to be replaced by Alex Biega, who played as a forward against the Ducks.

    Tryamkin, meanwhile, will likely have to sit and wait. Unless he gets bored enough to go to Utica, which is where the Canucks would like him anyway.

    Per Cap Friendly, Tryamkin’s contract pays him $925,000 in the NHL versus $70,000 in the AHL. He can become a restricted free agent after the season is over, which would allow him to return to the KHL should he choose to do so.

    The list of struggling netminders is a long one, as it’s been goals galore to start the season

    Winnipeg Jets' Mark Scheifele (55) watches as Patrik Laine's game-tying goal goes past Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen (31) during the third period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. (John Woods/The Canadian Press via AP)

    In case you haven’t noticed, NHL goalies are having a real struggle to start the 2016-17 season. After 80 games, the average save percentage sits at just .903, per Hockey Reference.

    To put that number in perspective, the last time a season finished with that low an average was 2000-01. The last couple of years, it’s been at .915, the highest save rate in league history. So don’t expect it to stay at .903 for long. Remember, the goalies’ equipment hasn’t really been altered yet.

    With that in mind, here are five goalies that need to pull it together:

    Brian Elliott: The most obvious candidate. He’s been extremely shaky for his new team in Calgary, going 0-3-0 with an .839 save rate. Another poor performance tonight in Chicago and head coach Glen Gulutzan may need to give Chad Johnson an opportunity to take the ball and run with it, because the Flames are already in a hole.

    Frederik Andersen: Another goalie playing for a new team. He’s gone 1-0-3 for Toronto, with an .879 save percentage. The Maple Leafs had better hope this is just a blip, because they’re committed to Andersen through 2020-21 for a cap hit of $5 million.

    Corey Crawford: This is an interesting one, because Crawford has mostly been ventilated on the penalty kill. His save percentage is a ridiculously low .615 while the ‘Hawks are shorthanded (10 goals allowed) and an impressive .966 at even strength (three goals). Overall, he’s 1-3-0 with an .886 save percentage, which needs to be higher one way or the other.

    Eddie Lack/Cam Ward: Let’s count these two as one, because they both play for Carolina and they’re both having serious issues. After five Hurricanes games, Lack’s save percentage is just .857 (three starts), while Ward’s is somehow worse at .852 (two starts). It was a similar story last year, when Lack and Ward combined for the second-worst team save percentage in the NHL, so don’t feel obligated to act surprised.

    Steve Mason/Michal Neuvirth: We’ll also count these guys as one, since they both play for Philadelphia and they’re both having a tough go. This scenario is different than Carolina’s, though, because Mason and Neuvirth were both excellent last season in helping the Flyers to an unexpected playoff berth. This season, Mason is 1-2-1 with an .882 save percentage, while Neuvirth is technically undefeated with a 1-0-0 record, but his save percentage is just .854 in two appearances.

    So that’s seven struggling goalies. There are plenty of honorary mentions, including Anton Khudobin, Louis Domingue, Darcy Kuemper, Craig Anderson, John Gibson, Martin Jones, Jake Allen, and even Vezina Trophy finalist Ben Bishop, whose save percentage sits at a lowly .861.

    PS — Henrik Lundqvist, Semyon Varlamov, and Marc-Andre Fleury haven’t been great either.

    Oh look, more injuries in Dallas

    Lindy Ruff
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    The Stars should be on the lookout for banana peels and open manhole covers.

    After a disappointing 3-0 loss to Columbus, Dallas received more bad news in the health department — Ales Hemsky, who returned from a groin injury to play his first game of the year on Saturday, was re-injured and is now out for Tuesday’s game against Winnipeg, while Jason Spezza “tweaked something in practice” today and is listed as questionable, per the Morning-News.


    Spezza and Hemsky join Cody Eakin (knee), Mattias Janmark (knee), Patrick Sharp (concussion), Patrick Eaves (lower body) and Jiri Hudler (flu) among Dallas’ inactives.

    Eaves might be able to go against the Jets, while Hudler has all but been ruled out. The rest of the ailments are of the longer-term variety, with Janmark the longest at 5-6 months.

    As you might expect, the Stars have struggled while trying to compensate. The lineup against Columbus featured the likes of Gemel Smith, Lauri Korpikoski and Adam Cracknell — all of whom are basically new to the team this season — and, unsurprisingly, Dallas’ recent record reflects that lack of roster consistency: 1-2-1 over the last four games, including a pair of home defeats to the Kings and Jackets.

    “We’ve got to deal with what we’ve got,” head coach Lindy Ruff said.

    Related: The injury situation in Dallas is out of control

    Rozsival to make season debut for Blackhawks

    CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 20: Michal Rozsival #32 of the Chicago Blackhawks passes against the San Jose Sharks at the United Center on December 20, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Sharks 4-3 in overtime.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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    An injury to Trevor van Riemsdyk has paved the way for Michal Rozsival to make his season debut for the Chicago Blackhawks.

    Rozsival might’ve been scheduled to play anyway, as the veteran defenseman is expected to replace Michal Kempny when the ‘Hawks host the Flames tonight at United Center.

    “We want to get everyone in at some point,” said head coach Joel Quenneville, per the Chicago Tribune. “We don’t want to wait too long to get him into the season here. He can be useful, gives us some experience and can play minutes against top guys.”

    At 38, Rozsival is one of the oldest players in the NHL. When the ‘Hawks re-signed him for another year, it came as a surprise to many. And by the time training camp rolled around, even he wasn’t exactly sure what his role would be this season.

    But not surprisingly, after last season, GM Stan Bowman would rather err on the side of too much depth on the back end.

    “It’s funny, because we had these [interviews] a year ago and they were always saying, ‘Are you worried about your defense? Do you have enough depth there?'” Bowman said, per the Sun-Times. “And now you’re saying we have too much depth. I think no matter what the story is, there’s a story line to it. But I’d rather have more guys who can play. Are we going to be healthy all year long? I hope so. But I don’t know if we will. … The thing with Michal, even last year, he just played too much consecutively. He still has a lot of hockey left.”

    Related: Blackhawks’ issues go beyond the penalty kill