After it appeared that the Ilya Kovalchuk free agency saga has come to an end, the NHL and Gary Bettman has thrown a curve ball New Jersey's way, rejecting the 17 year, $102 million dollar signing.
On what grounds exactly?
The NHL rejected the contract on the idea that the contract circumvents the NHL’s salary cap rules.
Last I checked, the rules were the rules. I will remind you of the absolutely ludicrous contract of Alexander Ovechkin which consists of 13 years and $124 million he signed in 2008. The deal comes with a healthy annual salary cap hit of roughly $9.5 million.
Did the league step in when that happened? No.
Simply because you find that you aren't a fan of the rules you agreed on, doesn't mean they aren't still what they are.
The NHL cannot simply change the rules because they don't like the outcome. The reason there was a Collective Bargaining Agreement, was to put these rules in place, the key word here being "agreement."
The NHL agreed on these rules. Lou Lamoriello being the hockey mastermind that he is, has found a loophole around it. Mr. Bettman may not like it, but this is a world of legality.
The NHL believes that Ilya Kovalchuk has no intentions of playing out the final years of his contract. They feel that that New Jersey would simply buy out the contract, or Ilya would just retire.
Whether or not that is the case, this is all part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
"There is nothing that we have done wrong," Lamoriello said when asked about the deal. "This is within the rules. This is in the CBA. There are precedents that have been set. But I would agree we shouldn't have these. But I'm also saying that because it's legal and this is something that ownership felt comfortable doing for the right reasons."
As everybody knows, legal rights overrides moral rights in the country.
Is it right? No.
Is it taking advantage of the agreement? Absolutely.
The next step will be the NHL Players Association filing a grievance on Ilya Kovalchuk's behalf who has stated that he fully intends to play out his contract. Kovalchuk is currently 27 years of age and would be 44 at the time that the contract would expire.
"I have played with guys who have played at a pretty high level at that age," Kovalchuk stated. "I will keep myself in shape."
In his defense, I will remind you of players such as Mark Recchi, Matthieu Schneider, Rob Blake, Dwayne Roloson, Niklas Lidstrom, Mike Modano, Teemu Selanne, Rod Brind’Amour, and Billy Guerin; all over 40, all were still team contributors.
Not to mention players who played past the age of 44 such as Gordie Howe, Chris Chelios, Moe Roberts, Johnny Bower, and Gump Worsley. During these years, Kovalchuk will not be being paid as a superstar, he'll be being paid as a contributor.
Whether or not Kovalchuk is telling the truth is meaningless.
The NHL is embarrassed because the media has unleashed a firestorm at them for allowing the Devils to take advantage of a loophole in the CBA.
But rules are rules and this contract will stand.