I know what you’re thinking when you see the headline. “Oh hell no, not more of this stuff!”
That’s a fine, fair and normal reaction but for those of you thinking that the NHLPA rolled over when the NHL punished the New Jersey Devils for circumventing the salary cap on their first contract offer for Ilya Kovalchuk, you’d be dead wrong. At least according to the New York Post’s Larry Brooks and his NHLPA sources you would be.
Slap Shots has been told that the delay of approximately 12 hours in finalizing the agreement reached in the early hours of Sept. 4 was caused by the union’s insistence that the Devils not be penalized with a loss of salary-cap space for having been found guilty of circumvention by arbitrator Richard Bloch on the first Kovalchuk contract submission.
The NHL, we’re told, finally yielded after it became clear that the union, protecting up to $3 million of New Jersey’s potential payroll, was not going to surrender on the issue.
Somehow we doubt that Lamoriello will be spending much time badmouthing Donald Fehr over the next two years.
Somehow we’re having a difficult time envisioning Gary Bettman re-appointing Lamoriello to the league’s negotiating committee during the next round of collective bargaining.
Standing up and fighting over this issue in particular turns out to be a huge win for the NHLPA. Losing $3 million in cap space would’ve changed the entire dynamic of the deal and would’ve served as a severe punishment for the Devils or any other team in the league that tried to do the same thing in the future.
While the Devils were already going to have to give up someone to get under the cap this year, picture them having to give up one or two more players to go along with that to make sure they could get Kovalchuk’s deal done. That would not be so pretty for the Devils nor effective for the union to sacrifice jobs like that to get contracts they want approved by the league.
Considering how late into the night they went to get the deal done, you can’t help but picture both sides sitting in a meeting having the world’s worst staring contest to settle things out. The league still got to punish the Devils, taking a third round pick from them and a future first round pick of the Devils’ choosing as well as a stiff fine, but considering how much tougher that fine could’ve been enforced, it’s a small, yet still noticeable, victory. They don’t all have to be big wins for the world’s shakiest union, but getting both the contract they wanted done as well as not hurting other players’ jobs is certainly a little something to be proud of.