Today it became official: An American General Manager signed a Russian player to an American team, but the consequences will be felt all across Canada, starting with the next work stoppage.
Barry Patchesky of Deadspin had a great post on the matter yesterday, noting that:
It's technically illegal to agree to deals that neither side has any intention of honoring to completion, but nothing came of those investigations because it's near impossible to prove intent in cases like these.
This is the longest contract in NHL history and makes Rick Dipietro look like a travelling nomad.
Of course, the NHL can't do anything about it because the NHL is scared of Lamoriello, and because they allowed ridiculously long-term contracts for every star player in the league.
So what's Lamoriello's response? Cue Tom Gulitti of the Devils' Fire & Ice blog:
I asked Lamoriello what he would think if someone brought up Kovalchuk’s contract in the next round of CBA negotiations (in two years) and pointed to it as a flaw.
“I might agree,” he said. “But there is nothing that we have done wrong. This is within the rules. This is in the CBA. There are precedents that have been set. But I would agree we shouldn’t have these. But I’m also saying that because it’s legal and this is something that ownership felt comfortable doing for the right reasons.”
The issue is not that the Devils are cheating, but that front-loaded contracts do nothing for 'cost-certainty' or all the other things that the salary cap was supposed to do. Thus, we're probably headed for another work stoppage in a couple of years to rectify this whole situation.
The Devils, by paying Kovalchuk an extra six years after 2021 (when he's 38 and would probably retire) save just $3.5 million (or one Jeff Finger), but a total of $32.5 million in cap space over the 11 years that he's playing.
Normally I don't really care about contracts, I just like watching the games, but the more bloated, front-loaded contracts we see, the more likely we are to Gary Bettman's third work stoppage in his tenure as NHL commissioner. Hopefully, it will also be his last.
Contract rejected by NHL. The question is not 'why' but 'why now'?