Nightmare on Broad Street: How Chris Pronger Becomes a Free Agent

Bleacher ReportAnalyst IAugust 11, 2010

PHILADELPHIA - JUNE 04:  Dustin Byfuglien #33 of the Chicago Blackhawks and Chris Pronger #20 of the Philadelphia Flyers cross sticks in fron tof the goal of Michael Leighton #49 in Game Four of the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Wachovia Center on June 4, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Richard Bloch, the arbitrator in the Ilya Kovalchuk arbitration case, upheld the NHL's decision to reject Kovalchuk's recently signed 17-year, $102 million contract with the New Jersey Devils.

The ruling makes Kovalchuk an unrestricted free agent for the second time this summer. In other words, it puts another speed bump in the free agent market.

Kovalchuk's deal with the Devils was a very cap-friendly pact that would pay the Russian star the money he wants over a span of a decade and a half while not annihilating the team's future salary cap troubles.

For the NHL, it was a clear sign that there's a big loophole in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that would allow teams to take advantage of a flaw in the agreement where they can sign decade long deals with the league minimum for a good portion of said contract.

Gary Bettman is realizing that if he allows teams to continue to take advantage of the loophole, it's going to make a mockery of the CBA.

What it means for the Devils is that general manager Lou Lamoriello, who blatantly took advantage of the glitch in the system, will have to go back to the table to negotiate a new deal with Kovalchuk.

The topic at hand can be put to bed, right?


In Bloch's ruling, he mentioned specifically, in the footnotes on the 19th page, the names of Chicago's Marian Hossa, Vancouver's Roberto Luongo, Boston's Marc Savard, and Philadelphia's Chris Pronger as possibilities of cap circumvention.

Should the NHL decide to investigate the aforementioned player's contracts, Bettman has the power to retroactively reject whatever deal he finds was in violation of cap circumvention.

For argument's sake, let's say Bettman rejects Pronger's brand new seven-year extension that kicked in on July 1, 2010, and his decision was upheld in court, the 35-year-old future Hall of Famer would become an unrestricted free agent.

The Flyers, who have barely under $1 million in cap space, would have to decide whether Pronger is the missing piece to the puzzle or another veteran unable to secure a Stanley Cup.

While Pronger was not successful in hoisting Lord Stanley's Cup in his first season with Philly, he was able to get the team over the bump. If he isn't the missing piece, he sure as hell is a major cog.

Paul Holmgren would have to figure out how to re-sign Pronger to a deal that will be approved by the NHL and not kill the team's future or present salary cap.

Like the saying goes: "You can't change the past, but you can ruin the present by worrying about the future."

The Flyers window is open, but for how long? If you cannot re-sign Pronger, are you still as good as you are with him? The answer is no.

With that being said, if the NHL were to cancel Pronger's deal, Philadelphia's general manager, Paul Holmgren, will have come up with an evil plan without tearing apart the team.

Logically, that would be damn near impossible.

As cap-strapped as the Flyers are, they would have to move another big-named forward and maybe another defenseman in order to sign Prongs. Considering the Orange 'n' Black have already lost Simon Gagne to a cap casualty, can they afford the loss of another key piece due to the NHL's mistake?

I say they can not.

Bettman would cripple the Flyers one way or another if he decides to retroactively reject Pronger's deal.

The chances of the NHL canceling Pronger, or any other players who are under investigation, contracts are slim to none.

An high profiled but unnamed agent told the Ottawa Sun that "the NHL isn't going to do anything to these deals."

So, it appears the Flyers are sitting in safe ground, for now.

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