Report: NHL offers "ultimatum" with NHLPA over Kovalchuk contract, dire consequences if not accepted

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for kovalchuklouvanderbeek.jpgIf you found yourself disappointed by this afternoon’s news about the NHL and NHLPA agreeing to extend the deadline to decide the fate of Ilya Kovalchuk’s latest contract with the New Jersey Devils, don’t worry, business just picked up.

The New York Post’s Larry Brooks is reporting that the NHL has given the NHLPA a set of stipulations under which they’ll agree to the Ilya Kovalchuk contract and, in essence, grandfather his deal in as the last of its kind so long as the players union agrees to amend the collective bargaining agreement to end these sorts of deals… Or else.

A well placed source reports that the league has informed the Players’ Assn. that the league will grandfather the recently submitted Kovalchuk 15-year, $100M contract, Luongo’s 12-year, $64M deal that is entering its second season and Hossa’s 12-year, $63.3M deal that also is entering its second season into the CBA under the following conditions:

1. That the cap hit on future multi-year contracts will not count any seasons that end with the player over 40 years of age. The cap hit would be calculated on the average of the salary up through age 40 only.

2. That the cap hit on future contracts longer than five years will be calculated under a formula granting additional weight to the five years with the highest salary.

The league has given the PA, which is being directed by Donald Fehr, until Friday at 5 pm to accept these conditions. If the PA refuses, or if negotiations fail to yeild a common ground, the league has informed the PA that:

1. It will reject the Kovalchuck contract.

2. It will move to immediately devoid the Luongo contract.

3. It will move to immediately open proceedings for a formal investigation into the Hossa contract.

Take a second to digest all of that because that’s one heaping pile of “Whoa….”

Now I know you’re saying that this may not be true when it comes to stuff coming from the New York Post and that’s fair. Larry Brooks is a bit of a different guy though because he’s a staunch NHLPA supporter in his columns and he seems to have connections from within. This report is awfully detailed, however, but use your grain of salt as you will.

If this is all true though, the NHL has now turned the game against the NHLPA and Donald Fehr, plain and simple. It’s the classic setting for negotiation. The NHL will give the NHLPA what they want as far as Kovalchuk’s deal is concerned as long as they give in to amending the collective bargaining agreement to add the new rules on contracts and cap hits. If the NHLPA decides to tell the NHL to stuff it where the sun doesn’t shine, then they’re nixing Kovalchuk’s latest contract and declaring war on the other deals they’re investigating and zeroing in on Roberto Luongo next with Marian Hossa waiting in the wings.

And you thought there was an uproar over Kovalchuk? Just wait until Vancouver, the West Coast Branch of Tinfoil Haberdashery, gets involved. Chicago fans are still busy trying to figure out who the heck is still on the team after their summer. Presumably they’ll get angry if/when they see that Marian Hossa is still on the team but won’t be because the league is going to give his contract the grenade.

To be serious though, Friday now has the potential to be the end is the beginning is the end of all of this nonsense. The plans are laid out clear as day. Either the NHLPA goes along with the NHLs ideas and everything proceeds as normal and contracts from that point on will be judged differently or they fight and Kovalchuk either goes for it again or bolts to Russia, meanwhile Roberto Luongo gets his agent on the phone posthaste to start working on a new contract. Marian Hossa, meanwhile, starts to sweat things out a little wondering if the NHL is coming for him too.

This isn’t to say that Friday will be an Armageddon kind of day as far as these parties are concerned. It’s not. This just means that talk about actual hockey is either going to be able to happen uninterrupted or fall back behind legal wranglings while we’re on the precipice of a new season. What a fine mess we’ve found ourselves in.

A big night for the rookies and a big win for the Maple Leafs

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William Nylander helped get Toronto started on Thursday, extending his point streak to 10 games — a new Maple Leafs franchise record for a rookie.

Connor Brown finished it with his 17th goal of the season, securing a 4-2 win for the Maple Leafs over the New Jersey Devils.

Toronto has won three in a row and moves three points clear of Boston for third in the Atlantic Division, with a game in hand, which further helps the Maple Leafs’ playoff chances with nine games remaining on their schedule.

Just another big night for Toronto’s impressive crop of rookies.

Auston Matthews had a pair of assists.

— Nylander had a goal and an assist. He set one and tied another franchise rookie record on Thursday.

Mitch Marner had an assist, giving him 40 helpers this season, which ties the franchise rookie record set in 1943-44.

“They’re good players,” said coach Mike Babcock, per the Toronto Star. “I didn’t know Marner would make the team. I knew Matthews and Nylander were good players. I knew Brown and (Zach) Hyman were relentless. I had no idea (Nikita) Zaitsev was as close to how good he is.

“We have lots of good players.”

In May of 2015, Babcock predicted at his introductory press conference that the Maple Leafs would, during their massive rebuild, endure “pain.” This was, he said, to be a long process — a “massive, massive challenge.”

Approaching the two-year anniversary of that event — after all the losing that franchise and its fan base has gone through, which obviously helped them with the Matthews lottery last year — the Maple Leafs are poised to make the playoffs with a nucleus of young players that present even more promise for the future.

“We just want to get in to the playoffs, and give ourselves a chance,” continued Babcock. “We’re playing well, and finding a way to win games. That’s what we have to continue to do.”

Capitals defeat Blue Jackets in clash of Metropolitan Division powers

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WASHINGTON (AP) T.J. Oshie scored the shootout winner as the Washington Capitals overcame a stellar performance from Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to beat the Blue Jackets 2-1 Thursday night.

Despite 44 saves from Bobrovsky, the Capitals reached 104 points and extended their lead atop the Metropolitan Division and NHL standings. Oshie engendered memories of his Sochi Olympic shootout performance by again beating Bobrovsky, the goalie he scored on four times in six chances that day.

Dmitry Orlov finally cracked Bobrovsky early in the third period on Washington’s 35th shot of the game. Orlov’s goal tied the score after Seth Jones beat Braden Holtby on a wild scramble early in the third for his first goal since Feb. 7.

Holtby had 29 saves in regulation and overtime and three more in the shootout to pick up his 38th victory of the season, one shy of Bobrovsky for the league lead.

A showdown between two of the top three teams in the league jockeying for position atop the Metropolitan Division lacked a playoff feel. But the matchup of two likely Vezina Trophy finalists lived up to that billing as Bobrovsky and Holtby went back and forth with big saves.

Bobrovsky entered the night first in wins, goals-against average and save percentage with Holtby second, second and third in those categories. The 2013 Vezina winner could also be an MVP contender this season given his value to Columbus’ third playoff berth in franchise history.

“When he’s in his game it’s very hard to score on him,” said Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, who had eight shots stopped by one of his Russian national teammates. “He likes the big moments, he likes pressure. His worth ethic is unbelievable. … In my opinion he’s one of the best goalies in the league right now.”

Methot ‘out for weeks’ after suffering a shattered finger from Crosby clash

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The Ottawa Senators lost defenseman Marc Methot for the bulk of Thursday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and it seems he’ll be out for quite a while longer, too.

Methot was injured on a Sidney Crosby slash across the hand in the first period. He didn’t return to the game and there was no penalty called on the Penguins captain.

Footage showed the gruesome aftermath of the slash — Methot’s finger on his left hand bloodied and injured as he skated back to the bench.

“His finger is shattered and he’s out for weeks,” said Senators head coach Guy Boucher, per the Ottawa Sun.

Methot immediately confronted Crosby after the slash, which occurred as the Sens blue liner went to dump the puck into the Pittsburgh zone late in the first period.

The Senators got revenge, scoring a 2-1 shootout victory to move within a point of Montreal for the Atlantic Division lead. Crosby was also denied in the shootout.

NHL to make ‘special announcement’ in China next week

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The National Hockey League has announced it will make a “special announcement” at the LeSports Center in Beijing, China next Thursday.

In January, the league’s deputy commissioner Bill Daly made it clear the NHL has interest in playing games in China — likely starting out with pre-season games before potentially adding in some regular season contests in the future, as well.

Just after the league made its announcement on Thursday, the L.A. Kings tweeted out that they will participate in next week’s event, along with the Vancouver Canucks.

In January, hockey insider Darren Dreger reported that the Canucks and Kings were likely to play NHL pre-season games in China this upcoming September.

Last July, members of the Boston Bruins visited China, specifically Beijing and Shanghai, to host hockey clinics in those cities.

Beijing will also host the 2022 Winter Olympics.