Lou Lamoriello has been called many things during his tenure as GM of the New Jersey Devils, but one name that has never been lobbed his way is dumb.
A few days ago, after reading about the insane 17-year deal that Lamoriello offered Ilya Kovalchuk, I thought, “Man, that is dumb.” Last evening the NHL rejected that 17-year, $102 million contract.
I am of the opinion that Lamoriello knew all along that the contract would be rejected.
The Kovalchuk deal flew in the face of New Jersey Devils tradition. Lamoriello has always built that team without spending insane money on free agents or trades. The Devils have let players walk in the past instead of overpay them, players that others thought were indispensable or lifetime Devils. Why would Lamoriello destroy the tradition of “team first” that he had built over that last 20-plus years?
Lamoriello is one of the most astute GMs in the history of the NHL, having won three Stanley Cups. This feat is even more impressive when you realize that Lamoriello never played, coached, or managed in the NHL prior to becoming president and then naming himself GM of the Devils. To think that this man didn’t know that the NHL would reject this contract is unrealistic.
Where does this put the Devils, the NHL, and Ilya Kovalchuk? The NHLPA will surely file a grievance in this matter. The NHL will argue that due to the structure of the contract, the Devils know that Kovalchuk will not play out the final few years of the deal, a deal which ends when he will be 44. Kovalchuk will argue that there are many players that play until they are that age.
The NHL will argue that the contract is written to pay Kovalchuk a high wage while absorbing a low salary cap hit over the course of the contract, $6 million over the life of the deal.
All these arguments will head to an arbitrator, who will then decide the fate of the parties involved.
My feeling is that the contract will be rejected and Lamoriello will be in the driver’s seat to negotiate a new, cheaper deal with Kovalchuk. Kovalchuk has stated that he wants to win in New Jersey and that it’s not about the money. We’ll see if this is true if a new deal needs to be hammered out. Lamoriello has the statements of Ilya in his pocket and will win in the court of public opinion if Kovalchuk decides to pursue money elsewhere.
A s I said earlier, dumb is one word never used to describe Lou Lamoriello.