First, the article from nbcsports.
If you’ve been wondering what the deal is with Ilya Kovalchuk and the New Jersey Devils is The Ilya Kovalchuk soap opera has taken a stunning turn of events today. Yahoo’s Dmitry Chesnokov has the details.
For Ilya Kovalchuk(notes), his representatives, the New Jersey Devils and the NHL, time is running out. Weeks after Kovalchuk’s 17-year, $102 million contract was rejected by the NHL, a difficult decision for the free-agent winger could come in the next 24-48 hours.
Sources close to Kovalchuk have told us that if the NHL does not approve any of the proposals submitted informally by the Devils, Kovalchuk may decide to play in the KHL next season.
This just about fries it for me as far as how things go for the NHL on this matter. We outlined what was going on with this nonsense the last two days when word came out both about the NHL pooh-poohing more contract framework and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman tap-dancing around questions about that happening. The point now is that the league has left Lou Lamoriello, Jay Grossman and Ilya Kovalchuk wandering around aimlessly trying to lock down a deal that works for everyone without having a blueprint to follow. Sure they could try to model things after Vincent Lecavalier’s 11-year contract, but who’s to say that 11 years is going to be too long to appease Commissioner Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly?
The NHL prides itself on being the home to the greatest hockey talent in the world and while the KHL pales in comparison both in talent level and in league stability, it remains the main option for anyone looking to continue playing professionally that can’t get a job in the NHL. Losing a star like Kovalchuk to the KHL over a squabble like this one, seemingly made to prove a point to other teams as well as agents and the NHLPA is insanity at its highest. With Kovalchuk setting this deadline to get a deal done, he’s making sure he at least has somewhere to play. The KHL season begins on September 8th.
Now, a deep breath…calm…I have read some flippant analysis in the hockey world but Joe Yerdon may have climbed into the top 10 with this one. Here is a dose of common sense Joe:
1. The NHL has done everything right. Lest you forget that an independent arbitrator agreed to by the NHLPA sided with the league on that offensively cap circumventing abortion of a contract.
2. You have no idea what has been presented to the league since then. We do know this. No contract has been presented and none has been rejected. Thus, before you surmise without the benefit of anything other than speculation what actually has been given to the league in the “conceptual” sense, save the intelligent and non-reactionary readers the nonsense that the NHL needs to start rushing to fix this before Kovalchuk leaves. There is such a thing as integrity and if Grossman and Lamoriello cannot devise a contract that they have confidence will abide by the CBA, such a shortcoming is not reflective of Bettman or the league. The league must have the integrity of not making exceptions to the agreed upon contractually binding rules of its collective bargaining agreement because this or that player may bolt for Russia.
3. Ask yourself a simple question: Why hasn’t Kovalchuk signed yet? The answer has nothing to do with the NHL. It is because Grossman and Lamoriello are too far apart. This is just about the money and despite Grossman’s disingenious proclamations to the contrary, it has always only been about the money and will only be about same. You want to point a finger at the cause of Kovalchuk’s departure. Point it at a wealthy agent in Jay Grossman who likely badly miscalculated the market and perhaps persuaded his client to turn down a $100 million dollar Thrashers offer because he may have thought he could get more this offseason from a better team. You think that extra $2 million in the rejected $102 million dollar deal doesn’t have significance? It is symbolic of the mindset that entered these negotiations and one that still exists today. However, none of this is the NHL’s concern. Grossman set unreasonable expectations? Kovalchuk wants more money than any team can afford to pay him? Let fault, if there has to be any assigned, fall squarely at the two antagonists’ feet in this story.
4. What does it tell you about a player who is willing to bolt to the KHL if he doesn’t get the money he wants? I won’t even answer this for you. Just ask yourself that question and come up with an unemotional answer.
5. Losing Kovalchuk will mean nothing. He toiled in obscurity for years in Atlanta. He wishes to toil away in Russia, so be it. It’s his choice. Not the league’s. You want to see the league make exceptions to the CBA for its stars? That type of corrupt behavior will only cause the NHL to lose credibility and place it near the same level as puppet leagues such as the KHL. If you want that for us, then you are no fan of the NHL and certainly know less about the sport than anyone who calls themselves a hockey writer should.