Gary Bettman Finally Gets One Right: Refusing Ilya Kovalchuk Contract

Imtiaz FerdousCorrespondent IIJuly 21, 2010

CHICAGO - MAY 28: National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks at a press conference at the United Center on May 28, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Good job Gary Bettman! I finally get to say that. The long-term contracts had been used to circumvent the salary cap for the last several years, but Bettman may have finally put an end to that.

The NHL has done a terrible job trying to figure out which contracts are cheating the salary cap and which are not. Starting last year, however, the NHL has done a decent job destroying these contracts.

It should have started last year with the Marian Hossa contract, which goes until he is 42. That is an insane age to be playing hockey unless your name is Chris Chelios; however, we do have to look at this from the league's perspective.

The legal system tells us a person is innocent until proven guilty; unless the NHL can prove Hossa agreed to retire early in exchange for all that money, they should not do anything. 

For this reason the Hossa contract saved the Blackhawks $2 million per year in cap space (and we all know how much they need cap space), but what could the NHL do about it? Well you see the NHL is an exclusive club, like a university. For you to be kicked out they would have a proper trial, but unlike the legal system, they don't have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you cheated; it can just be the balance of probabilities.

In the case of Hossa, they should realize that it is very likely that he will retire before the end of the contract. I might forgive Henrik Zetterberg because he would be 40, and it is not unheard of for a player to play into the age of 40, but Johan Franzen with all his injury history will not be able to play that long. 

I am fine with Duncan Keith and Alexander Ovechkin because they are young enough that they will play out their 13-year deals. This is reasonable as is the Rick Dipietro deal since he was also quite young before signing his deal.

However with Kovalchuk, it wasn't just likely that he would retire long before the contract expired; it was beyond a reasonable doubt. This is why Bettman finally got the courage to say no to the deal. A $6 million cap hit until Kovalchuk is 45? No! 

For that I applaud Bettman. It is very rare I applaud anyone, much less Bettman. Good for you, Mr. Commissioner. You made the best decision for the NHL, and I am proud to see you do that.

In fact, I started warming up to you when you waited until the contract was signed to inform Philadelphia that Chris Pronger's cap hit would count regardless of whether he retires or not. I only wish I could have been there when Holmgren was given the news. It was a just way to punish a team trying to cheat the salary cap, I give you two thumbs up!

Now for the next CBA I, have already given you a myriad of solutions as to how to fix this loophole. Here is another one: have the team and the player declare how many years he is guaranteed to play, the cap will count for that long with a cap hit being equal to the average amount they pay per year up to that point. 

The NHL teams should not have to be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, they should never be in doubt. 

Also if you like this article be sure to go to where I do my humourous analysis of the Toronto Maple Leafs (is there any other kind?)