Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The NHL's Clusterchuk

Ilya Kovalchuk is one of the NHL's best players today. After being traded to New Jersey at the trade deadline this year, questions arose on where he would sign. He has said that he likes playing in southern markets, which made the LA Kings as the most likely landing spot. But, as Devils GM Lou Lamoriello was able to court him back with a 17 year, $102 million contract, the NHL stepped in, saying the contract circumvented the league's CBA. And, I can see why, as the last 7 years of the contract would pay him a combined $2.5 million. Then, the Devils fought back taking the league to arbitration saying that the contract was valid. The NHL won, and now fans of the Devils, the KHL (Russia's hockey league), and the NHLPA were waiting with baited breath for Kovalchuck's to sign with the Devs once again. But, he still hasn't, because the league is waiting to approve the contract. This has been an absolute farce for the league, who needs to keep one of their players in North America, but even worse, it shows how desperate the league is to exert its power.

Kovalchuk's new contract is relatively similar to the rejected one, but with more money at the back end of the contract, $7.25 million. Still, 90% of the contract is paid in the first 10 years, which is bad, but better than 93% in the first 10 years. But, the fact that the league can't accept the contract soon enough is hilarious, considering training camps start by mid-September, and preseason hockey starts on the 21st. They've needed extensions galore, to read 11 pages again and again, with the NHLPA agreeing. Hilarious. The day I'm writing this, fans all around hockey are still waiting to see if the contract is accepted. If it isn't, the KHL may beckon. How could the NHL lose one of their best players over trivial stuff like this? I know this contract definitely tested the CBA to its fullest extent, but, contracts to guys like Marc Savard, Roberto Luongo, and Marian Hossa were all equally bad, but left to stand. What makes this one different? The fact that Kovy would make only $357,142 a year when he will be 37-44 is irrelevant (unless he plays until he's 48 like Chris Chelios). Is the NHL looking to reject this contract by reading so in-depth that no lawyer could upstage them?

If this contract is rejected, Kovy should bolt to Russia, and I couldn't blame him. With 1 dollar valuing at about 31 rubles, he could do pretty well in the upscale metropolis that is Moscow (if it isn't covered in a layer of smog that could put LA to shame). If the NHL loses Kovy, they only have themselves to blame. Why want to reject it? Prove that they're bigger than the GM's who are inevitably smarter than the NHLPA and owners who wrote the CBA? The fact that the union let the deadline to extend the timeframe to make a decision is even more amazing, considering it helps nobody who is playing hockey. We could wait until the Winter Classic to know the decision, and it would only wet the league's palette. It pains me as a hockey fan to see this drag on so long. I could only imagine what Kovalchuk is thinking.

I only want to see this resolved, so that we may focus on actual hockey, and other rumors, like Don Fehr heading the NHLPA, Antti Niemi signing with San Jose(great signing by the way), and all other stuff that may not be that exciting, but it is better than hearing about this situation that is now flat out embarrassing the league. Even though Lamoriello is confident that the contract will be accepted, and some sources have said that it will be, the fact that it has taken so long is horrible. Let Kovy know where he will live, where he will play, and where he can support his family. Newark and Moscow are pretty far away places.

This just stinks of everything the league can't have. Why can't the NHL capitalize on the Olympic momentum, without having something stop it? NHL, it is a simple answer: yes or no. Not difficult to pick which. Say something, so we can at least move on from this "Clusterchuk".

"Help me. If they reject the contract,
KHL or NHL?"

(Credit to Eklund for the Clusterchuk title, and to In Lou We Trust on SB Nation for good info on the subject)

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