When the Ilya Kovalchuk deal (17 years, $102 million) was rejected by Gary Bettman and the NHL you knew it was just a matter of time before the NHLPA filed a grievance.
As it stands now, it appears as if the NHLPA will do exactly that by filing a grievance against the NHL by Monday at 5:00 p.m. EST.
Many believe the NHL had no right to pull the plug on the Kovalchuk deal, especially in light of some of the past deals (Rick Dipietro, Henrik Zetterberg, etc.) that have been allowed to go through by the NHL.
With all this in mind, let’s take a look at five reasons the NHL rejected the deal with the New Jersey Devils.
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement that “The Contract (Ilya Kovalchuk’s contract with the New Jersey Devils) has been rejected by the League as a circumvention of the Collective Bargaining Agreement”.
By definition “Circumvent” means: “to go around or bypass” or “to avoid by artfulness or deception; avoid by anticipating or outwitting”.
Clearly, given the NHL’s official statement and the way the Kovalchuk deal was structured, the NHL feels that New Jersey Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello attempted to circumvent the CBA when he signed Kovalchuk to his outlandish contract.
More than a few of my readers have suggested that the NHL refused the Kovalchuk deal in attempt to force the Russian star to sign with the Los Angeles Kings.
Los Angeles is one of the Biggest TV markets on the planet. With that in mind, adding a player of Kovalchuk’s talent and marketability would, in fact, be a huge boast to the NHL, especially in Los Angeles where the team has been struggling to attract fans since Wayne Gretzky left.
Could it be that Gary Bettman is trying to manipulate where Ilya Kovalchuk signs? Doubtful. But, as is the case with every conspiracy theory, you’ll have a hard time making a case to those that believe this to be true.
No matter which side you are on with regards to the Kovalchuk deal, one thing is certain—most people understand that the Kovalchuk deal could cause major problems for the NHL, if not ruin the League.
How so? Well, for starters, if the NHL were to approve the Kovalchuk deal what would stop another NHL general manager from signing another NHL player to a 20-year deal or a 25-year deal?
Where should the cutoff line be? How far do you want to push the NHL and what benefit is there to trying to push the envelope?
Sure, the players get richer and the team offering the contract gets their man, but the NHL and the other 29 teams will (in the end) end up paying a steep price and lose the protection that the salary cap provides for them.
In a nutshell, the Kovalchuk contract is a “Lose-Lose-Lose” situation for the NHL, the Players (in the long run) and the NHLPA.
It is widely known that Lou Lamoriello was a catalyst in designing the CBA alongside Gary Bettman, the NHL and the NHLPA.
Could it be that Bettman didn’t like what Lou brought to the table? Is it possible that Bettman has been hiding his dislike for Lamoriello all these years and has been waiting for an opportunity to pick a legal battle with him?
Yep…Bettman enjoyed being in court most of last summer when he was fighting the good fight over the future of the Phoenix Coyotes. Bettman really misses his battles with Jim Balsillie and he wishes to return...yeah, that's it!
Heck, Lou and Jim have the same haircuts how tough can Lou be?
Ok, so Bettman’s battle would be with the NHLPA not Lou and the Devils, but still, do you honestly think the NHL is looking for another court battle?
Yep, maybe that’s it…the NHL is trying to get rid of all the Russians!
With so many Russian players opting to head to the KHL maybe the NHL is trying to expedite things a little quicker by making it all but impossible for Russian players to get a new contract with an NHL team.
I have long said that if a player wants to head over to the KHL that NHL teams should not intervene— you want to leave the best League on the planet to go play with a bunch of old men and has-beens, have at it comrade!
Perhaps Bettman heard me and is trying to do his due diligence to rid the NHL of all of the “haters”?