Paul Kelly: League would be foolish to go after Marc Savard's contract

Thumbnail image for paulkelly.jpgWhile we wait to see if the NHL will approve the latest contract for Ilya Kovalchuk, we ponder how the NHL’s investigation is going with the other contracts they’ve eye-balled as being potentially cap busting. While folks focused on Marian Hossa’s contract, Marc Savard’s contract extension with the Boston Bruins is one that seemed to slip under the radar of fans but not for the league.

Former executive director of the NHLPA Paul Kelly, however, feels that the league could be going down the wrong road if they choose to fight Savard’s deal. The Boston Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa has the details.

“Say you challenge Savard and the next arbitrator says, ‘This is perfectly legal.’ Well, now you’ve just thrown everything back into pandemonium and into a gray area,” Kelly said. “Right now, the NHL’s got a good, strong decision. There’s nothing to counteract it. They can wave it in front of the faces of GMs and say, ‘We’re not going to register your contract unless you cut it back.’ There’s a practical reason why the NHL should be content and sit tight.”

If the NHL red-flagged Savard’s contract, the players’ union would appeal. The mechanism would then be the same as what took place with Kovalchuk. The sides would agree on an independent arbitrator, who would then hear the case and make a decision independent of Bloch’s ruling. As such, there’s no guarantee the next arbitrator would side with the league once more.

“I don’t think the Kovalchuk case creates a precedent that would cause another arbitrator to pause very much if he found the facts of a second circumstance warrant a different result,” said Kelly. “You have to be careful what you wish for. The NHL is smart enough to know that even if they’ve won this one, it doesn’t mean you’ll roll over and prevail in every other one that comes down the pike.”

If there’s something this off-season needs it’s yet another bizarre turn of events in this witch hunt against potentially cap-circumventing contracts. Going all in against Savard’s deal only to have the league’s appeal turned on its head would certainly qualify as a game-changer. Or maybe it’d be a game re-changer at this point considering the hassle they’re putting Ilya Kovalchuk, Jay Grossman and Lou Lamoriello through.

Now I kind of want to see the NHL go after these other contracts just so we’ll have even more game-distracting chaos. After all this is said and done, I think we’ll all be able to qualify as paralegals.

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    Goalie nods: Niemi expected for Stars against Penguins

    Antti Niemi, Jonathan Toews
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    Talk about getting thrown into the fire.

    Antti Niemi is expected to be the starting goalie tonight in Dallas when his Stars host Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin and the rest of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

    Niemi has, not surprisingly, been given the assignment over Kari Lehtonen, the latter of whom struggled badly during the preseason, allowing 15 goals on 84 shots.

    Not that Niemi was razor sharp himself. He allowed eight goals on 65 shots, for a save percentage of .877.

    Considering the Stars have a combined $10.4 million in cap space tied up in those two veteran netminders, it’s no wonder the number-one question facing the club is whether the goaltending has indeed been fixed.

    We’ll start to find out tonight.

    Marc-Andre Fleury will undoubtedly be in goal for Pittsburgh, though that hasn’t been confirmed.


    Craig Anderson, the goalie the Senators decided to keep, versus Robin Lehner, the one they traded to the Sabres.

    Cam Ward will start for Carolina when the Hurricanes visit the Predators, who will obviously go with Pekka Rinne. The consensus is that Eddie Lack will eventually supplant Ward as Carolina’s starter, but that apparently hasn’t happened yet.

    Brian Elliott goes for the Blues versus Cam Talbot for the Oilers. Elliott was excellent in the preseason, stopping all but two of the 57 shots he faced, while Jake Allen allowed six goals on 60 shots.

    Steve Mason for the Flyers versus Ben Bishop for the Lightning.

    Ondrej Pavelec for Winnipeg versus Tuukka Rask for Boston.

    Devan Dubnyk likely for the Wild versus Semyon Varlamov for the Avs.

    Flyers want to prove doubters wrong

    Jakub Voracek, Claude Giroux
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    Jakub Voracek totally understands why nobody’s expecting much from the Philadelphia Flyers. When a team finishes 14 points out of the playoffs the year before, that’s typically going to be the case.

    “We weren’t good enough last year, let’s face it,” Voracek told CSN Philly. 

    So, no, it doesn’t upset him that the Flyers aren’t considered among the Stanley Cup favorites.

    That being said, “it makes you feel you want to prove them wrong.”

    The Flyers get going tonight with a tough game against the Lightning in Tampa Bay. They also play Saturday in Florida against the Panthers, before a rematch with the Panthers Monday in Philadelphia.

    “My biggest concern would be getting off to a good start,” GM Ron Hextall said. “That’s one thing that we need to do.”

    That’s something they didn’t do last year. In fact, they won just once in their first six games. By the end of November, they were 8-12-3 and in a big hole — one that proved too deep to climb out of.

    Related: Flyers to start season with seven defensemen