Just hours after Ilya Kovalchuk and the New Jersey Devils celebrated their star winger's new $102 million, 17 year contract with a press conference at The Rock, the league office rejected the deal and sent everyone into a tizzy. The length of the contract was an obvious attempt to reduce the cap number, but was it that much different from others already approved by the league?
Apparently, the NHL felt so. This anonymous quote was obtained by ESPN:
The contract was rejected because years of low salary at the end of the contract were added for the sole purpose of lowering the cap hit. The person added that no side believes Kovalchuk will play the final years of the deal at those terms. The star forward was slated to earn only $550,000 in each of the last five seasons of the contract that was to run through the 2026-27 season, when Kovalchuk would be 44.
Could Kovalchuk still be playing at age 44? Of course he could be. But would he be playing for an amount much lower than what the league minimum salary would be at that time? Of course not.
The funny part in all of this is that Jersey GM Lou Lamoriello almost admitted as much to the media after the press conference. "We should not have these" he said to the press, "but they are legal under the CBA." Apparently, Lamoriello did not take into account the stipulations in the CBA about intentional cap circumvention.
When asked why they made the deal, the GM blamed his boss. "You would have to speak to ownership about that", he replied.
While the contract is similar in structure to Marian Hossa's and a couple of others, it is longer and has a longer period of minimal salary at the end than any other. The NHL has decided to draw a line in the sand. What happens now?
My guess is that they will shave a few of the bogus years off of the end of the deal which will in effect raise the cap number to a more realistic number. We will see.