I had written a previous article about how NHL teams are circumventing the salary cap by using long term contracts.
Today, we were given another prime example. Ilya Kovalchuk was signed to a 17-year, $102 million contract by Lou Lamoriello.
First, let's rehash what I stated in the previous article.
First, there was the Hossa contract. He is paid $55 million of his $62 million in the first seven years. So shouldn't the cap hit be $7.9 million for the first seven years instead of $5 million and change?
Then there's Zetterberg and Franzen. Zetterberg helps them save more than $1.5 million in cap space for the first eight years. After that, don't be surprised to see him retire.
And Franzen makes $5 million per year for the first seven years, and yet, his cap hit is below $4 million!
Then there's Marc Savard being paid $25 million in the first four years of his seven-year contract. That averages out to about $6.25 million per year, but his cap hit is $4 million.
Then there's Chris Pronger, whose salary was clearly an attempt to cheat the cap. Except they failed. Since his new contract kicks in after he's 35, his salary cap hit will go on until his contract expires, even if he doesn't play. Yet he earns $7 million per year in the first four years, and the cap hit is only $5 million.
Now we have Ilya Kovalchuk signing a mega-deal that keeps hm on the Devils until he's a grandfather. In the first eight years of his contract, he will be paid $80 million!
So on average he will be making $10 million, which is like the seven years and $70 million Atlanta offered him. Yet the cap hit is $6 million. That's a savings of $4 million; you can sign a great quality player for that kind of cap space.
Then there's the fact that for the last five years of his deal, he is paid pocket change.
He will be paid $99 million before then, so I say he retires by or before that. This means that in reality his cap hit at the absolute minimum should be $8.25 million. Once again, it's $6 million.
This is the most blatant use of a long term contract to cheat the salary cap.
In my original post, I had proposed to make it a year by year analysis for the salary cap. Cap hit equals what you're paid that year, but I thought about it and I realized that the NHLPA would never go for that (or at least they would fight tooth and nail until they lose another year to the lockout).
So, my new proposal is simple; if a player has a contract extending beyond a certain age (say 35), the cap hit will count for the player until the contract is over. Or, they can just do that regardless of age; count it against the cap until the contract is done, retired or not.
Now, I did not include the likes of Duncan Keith and Alexander Ovechkin because it is perfectly reasonable to expect them to play for that long. In the case of Keith, he might be considered cheap in a few years.
I also did not include Dipietro for the same reason, because I originally thought that the contract was interesting. Who knew that he would be so injury prone? I only included players whose contracts I believe have cheated the salary cap or attempted to (Pronger).
The pity of it all is that I had a great deal of respect for Lou Lamoriello. He has built a winning culture in New Jersey for decades.
He stayed true to his philosophies even when the fan base was demanding something else. Yes, his teams also caused the NHL to change their rules because they were turning into the San Antonio Spurs of hockey (boring to watch but they sure can win).
I never in a million years imagined Lamoriello would cheat the salary cap like this. I always pictured him saying that it would go against the fundamental idea of the salary cap (parity) to use long term contracts to keep cap hit low.
Even yesterday, when everyone was saying that it is a 17-year, $100 million mega-deal, my response was disbelief.
The sad thing is that it may not be Lamoriello. He himself admits that he did it because they have new facilities, and as such, should get a star player like Ilya.
I find that insane, as Lou has always maintained that team comes first. Even when Niedermayer left, his No. 27 jersey now belongs to Mike Mottau. A Hall of Famer's number on an unknown player seems unbelievable.
They explained that no one is above the team, and that the team owns the jerseys, and thus no player will have his number retired.
Now that the Devils have done this, does it mean that Lamoriello is going to step down because ownership is interfering too much? I hope so.
I don't want my memories of Lamoriello to turn into memories of a person who will stop at nothing to win, even if it means cheating.
Also in my article, a lot of people thought these long term contracts are not cheating. If you feel that way, or even if you don't, please explain why. I really don't understand it.