Monday, August 09, 2010

NHL Arbitration Nixes Kovalchuk's Suspect 17-Year Deal

Arbitrator Richard Bloch has sided with the NHL and rejected a suspicious 17-year contract between Ilya Kovalchuk and the New Jersey Devils.

The full text of Richard. Bloch's NHL - Kovalchuk arbritration opinion and award is here.

The Toronto Star's Damien Cox reports:
Talking to people throughout the hockey industry this morning, it was clear most expected that while Ilya Kovalchuk's 17-year contract with the New Jersey Devils was a rather obvious - blatant? - attempt to circumvent the NHL's salary cap system, a number of similar contracts allowed in recent years by the NHL was going to make it difficult for arbitrator Richard Bloch to side with the league in its rejection of Kovalchuk's deal.

But Bloch did just that, saying the Kovalchuk contract "has the effect of defeating" the NHL's cap system.

"In this case, the record strongly supports the claim this contract is “intended to, or has the effect” of defeating or circumventing the Salary Cap provisions of the CBA," wrote Bloch in his decision. 
"The overall structure of this (contract) reflects not so much the hope that Mr. Kovalchuk will be playing in those advanced years, but rather the expectation that he will not. This is a long contract --17 years -- the longest in NHL history. That, in itself, poses no contractual problem. . . . .  But Kovalchuk is 27 years old, and the agreement contemplates his playing until just short of his 44th birthday. That is not impossible, but it is, at the least, markedly rare. Currently, only one player in the League has played past 43 and, over the past 20 years only 6 of some 3400 players have played to 42."
Call it a small victory for common sense in professional sports jurisprudence.
- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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