Friday, August 13, 2010

NHL Out For Bad Contracts

And it may be a bad idea. The NHL won a small victory against front loaded contracts when they successfully won a ruling that struck down the practice. The New Jersey Devils tried to sign Ilya Kovalchuk to a ridiculous contract that would pay him well into the forward's forties at a lesser cost. Now with that little victory, NHL is going all "Steven-Slater" on other contracts that pose the same front loading characteristics.

Roberto Luongo in Vancouver, Marc Savard in Boston, Chris Pronger in Philadelphia and Marian Hossa in Chicago are squarely in the league's cross-hairs. All have signed long term contracts that are the league may retro-actively disallow.

However, all of the players have already filled out their part of the contract by playing for their respective clubs. If the NHL didn't like the practice in the first place, they should have challenged it then and not by allowing those players to play for those teams and let them begin their contracts.

It is understandable that these contracts are a loop hole that bypasses the CBA. The contracts allow a team to pay top dollar for a player while keeping him in the fold for the players lifetime and the price drops when the player passes his prime.

But the league was slow to challenge any of these contracts when they were drafted a year ago. Going back will make those players unrestricted free agents and teams will have to scramble to resign those players or be out the money they paid them for one season and see those players go to other teams.

Vancouver may see this as an opportunity to part ways with Luongo who has underachieved in the playoffs for the Canucks. But the contract was eventually approved by the league, unlike the Kovalchuk contract that was challenged. It is a tough pill to swallow, but the league should not be going after past contracts they did not challenge and ended up approving anyway.

Other contracts and even trades could be affected by this retro-analyzing of contracts. Imagine a trade from a year or two years ago being challenged and the players in question have to return to their old teams. A team that made the trade, for good or bad, will be stuck paying for a player they didn't have to spend money on if the league had stepped in to begin with. No one is saying the league is looking into that, but it could be a next step if the league wants to pursue it.

It opens a Pandora's box of problems the league just wants to correct. In the end it will confuse fans and become a PR nightmare for the league.

The league caught this one, good for them. But to go back and challenge their own approvals of contracts just seems a bit petty.

Caps notes:
  • Japer's Rink thinks that David Steckel is one Cap that needs to be on the trading block. But I like the big guy!
  • Meanwhile, Peerless reminds us that rumors are just that, rumors.
  • Because I was a bit busy before the news broke, Olie Kolzig has confirmed he will be at the Capitals Convention in October. Also at this year's convention, the Caps will reveal their Winter Classic digs, panel discussions and lots of opportunities to touch a Capital player (no bad touching though).

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