The NHLPA is expected to file a grievance over the Ilya Kovalchuk deal against the NHL today, which should get the ball rolling on finding a resolution to this issue.
When the NHL pulled the plug on the Kovalchuk deal (17 years, $102 million), many believed it was just a matter of time before the NHLPA filed a grievance, so the fact they will do so today is hardly a surprise.
It is widely believed that, despite the language in the CBA, the NHL had no right to stick its nose into the Kovalchuk contract, especially in light of some of the past deals that were accepted such as the Rick DiPietro deal, Henrik Zetterberg, Marian Hossa, etc.
Once the grievance is filed it should put into motion what could emerge as a long and drawn out process that, in the end, will see either the NHL or NHLPA win a decision for, or against, the contract.
Here’s a look at what is about to go down:
It’s all very simple. The NHL feels that Lou Lamoriello and the New Jersey Devils attempted to circumvent the CBA, nothing more, nothing less.
As such, the NHL will now have to prove its case, which may be easier said than done.
It should be noted that the CBA does include a clause that states the NHL may reject a standard player contract if/when “the contract is or involves a Circumvention of either the Club's Upper Limit or the Maximum Player Salary…”
By definition “Circumvent” means “to go around or bypass” or “to avoid by artfulness or deception; avoid by anticipating or outwitting.”
If we go by the definition you just have to side with the NHL, don’t you?
I mean, 17-years, $102 million (which would take Kovalchuk to the age of 44) is a monster contract and, given the way it is structured…well, it does appear as if Lou Lamoriello and the New Jersey Devils were attempting to “bypass, go around, and/or avoid by artfulness.”
The trouble is, the wording in the CBA is subjective and there are no firm examples within the CBA for any of us to use as a measuring stick here.
Furthermore, with so many other questionable contracts already out there, many fans are siding with the Devils on this one. It’s the old “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander” mentality, and it’s hard to argue.
On the other side of the coin, the NHLPA believes the Kovalchuk deal falls within the rules of the CBA and, subsequently, will likely file a grievance today.
Once the NHLPA does file a grievance both the NHLPA and NHL will have to duel it out in an arbitration hearing (with an arbitrator that both sides agree upon) where it will be decided if the NHL’s findings (to reject the Kovalchuk deal) have merit or not.
The interesting part about the arbitration process is there's no time limit on choosing said arbitrator. So, if the NHLPA and NHL cannot come to an agreement on whom the arbitrator will be, we can expect an answer to be delayed for days, weeks, maybe even months...
Clearly, if the two sides cannot come to an agreement on the arbitrator the process could be delayed, but it’s really not in either side's best interest, nor the interest of the player (Kovalchuk), so I suspect they will decide on an arbitrator in a timely manner.
Once an arbitrator is finalized he or she will have a window of 48 hours in which to come forward with a decision for or against the NHL's findings.
If the arbitrator sides with the NHL, Kovalchuk’s 17-year, $102 million contract could become null and void.
That said, if the arbitrator does side with the NHL, the NHL and NHLPA could sit down at the table with the intention of hammering out their differences in an attempt to save the contract (which is what I feel will happen).
If the NHL and NHLPA are unable to come to an agreement/hammer out a new deal, then Kovalchuk would become a free agent again, which means the New Jersey Devils could still try to re-work the Kovalchuk deal to the liking of the NHL in an attempt to sign him, as could the 29 other NHL teams.
The reality is, neither side wants to press this matter too far. It is in the best interest of the Devils, Kovalchuk, the NHLPA and the NHL to resolve this matter/contract quickly and without malice.
Now, keeping with the arbitrator siding with the NHL, if the NHL so desires it does have the right to levy fines against the Devils. These penalties can include monetary fines, loss of draft picks and so forth (I don’t think it will get this far).
If the arbitrator sides with the NHLPA then the Kovalchuk deal will go into effect immediately and it's business as usual for the Devils.
Again, I really feel that both sides will find that the arbitrator will try to get all sides to sit down and try to hammer out a compromising deal.
Admittedly, the process is a little more complex than what I have outlined here, but, in a nutshell, this is what is about to go down, one way or the other.
It's now official, here is the link to Dan Rosen's article at NHL.com:
Never a boring day in the NHL, is it?
Enjoy the sideshow!
Until next time,