NHL Free Agency: More on the Ilya Kovalchuk Saga...Who's Laughing Now?

Mark RitterSenior Writer IJuly 22, 2010

NEWARK, NJ - JULY 20:  (L-R) General Manager Lou Lamoriello, owner Jeff Vanderbeek, Ilya Kovalchuk, and head coach John Maclean of the New Jersey Devils speak with the media during a press conference announcing his contract renewal at the Prudential Center on July 20, 2010 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Despite all the whining coming from New Jersey Devils fans, Gary Bettman and the NHL were completely within their rights to deem Ilya Kovalchuk’s 17-year, $102 million contract null and void.


While on the surface Kovalchuk’s deal is not much different than the likes of Rick DiPietro, Roberto Luongo or Alex Ovechkin’s contracts, the fact remains that given how little Kovalchuk was meant to earn over the final years of his contract made the contract a joke, which is why the NHL gave it the boot.


Lost in all the Kovalchuk chatter is the fact that if Kovalchuk was to retire before his 17-year deal expired (which many suggest he would) whatever amount remained on his contract would NOT count against the salary cap.


The NHLPA and the players themselves are sure to get their collars up about this whole matter, but, the reality is, they all know the Kovalchuk contract made a complete mockery of the CBA and they would be smart to just leave it alone.


As it stands now, unless the New Jersey Devils and Kovalchuk can find a way to re-structure the deal so that all parties (including the NHL) are satisfied we may be looking at an independent arbitrator coming in to re-structure the deal, which, in the end, could have huge cap ramifications for Lou Lamoriello and the New Jersey Devils.


It has been suggested that the deal may be re-worked into a 15-year contract that would see the Devils held to a salary cap hit of just under $7 million per season; a lofty amount for any player, especially over 15 years.


Personally, I have absolutely no sympathy for the Devils organization, Lou Lamoriello or Ilya Kovalchuk. All parties attempted to side-step the CBA, all parties conspired to make a mockery of the NHL.


In a statement released Wednesday, Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello said:


"We are extremely disappointed that the NHL has decided to reject the contract of Ilya Kovalchuk," said Devils GM Lou Lamoriello. "The contract complies with the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement."


Lamoriello later stated that he felt “these” types of contracts should be eliminated from the next CBA agreement.


So, it’s “OK” to try to pass through an asinine contract today, but two years from now the NHL should eliminate them? Nice!


The entire Kovalchuk saga has gotten so far out of hand that many NHL fans are hoping that Kovalchuk elects to play in the KHL this season.


Kovalchuk is rumored to have walked away from an offer that would have seen him make around $80 million from the Los Angeles Kings, a team that desperately tried to make a deal happen.


Having walked away from a 12-year, $101 million offer to stay with the Atlanta Thrashers near last seasons trade deadline, it is clear that Kovalchuk will not settle for anything less than that which he walked away from.


The entire episode looks horrible optically, with all sides (The Devils, Kovalchuk and the NHL) coming out as losers.


Where this all goes is anyone’s guess…I’d like to see it all go where the Devils himself resides, but that’s just my opinion.


Until next time,