Ilya Kovalchuk, A Contract Rejection, A Filed Grievance, and Two Outcomes: A Poll

Elias, Parise, Langenbrunner, Brodeur, and Leblond will be doing the same thing here as we all will be: waiting for a decision. Why not answer an informal poll in the meantime? (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Today, the National Hockey League Player's Association, the union, did file a grievance to the NHL's rejection of the $102 million/17 year contract between Ilya Kovalchuk and the New Jersey Devils.  

I've written at length for the past few days explaining why I don't think the contract violated Article 50, which defines the Upper Limit (a.k.a. the salary cap ceiling) and the Maximum Player Salary. The two areas the NHL claims that was circumvented I've also explained that the events done so far - the rejection of the contract (per Article 11.6.(a)(i)), the wait for the NHLPA to file a grievance, and the NHLPA actually filing a grievance - all fits under the provisions of Article 11.6(a).   There will be an arbitration hearing to determine whether the NHL's rejection was valid.   Therefore, the provisions being followed are under Article 11.6(a) and will continue flowing down that path.

I've also written a second post later that day on why Article 26.13 does not apply to this situation at this juncture.  Unless the NHL has conducted an investigation into whether the Kovalchuk contract was circumvention in some form (Article 26.10); the NHL met with all parties involved in a joint discussion for possible circumvention to reconcile the issue (Article 26.12); and attempts at reconciliation failed, the NHL (or the PA) filed for the Systems Arbitrator, and said arbitrator agrees with the NHL's claims within 7 days (Article 26.13(a)), then and only then do the penalties described in 26.13(c) apply.   That's a lot to happen completely under the radar, so unless there's some news of some of this or all of this happening, there's no reason at all to worry about Article 26.13.  On top of that, Article 26 isn't even called out in Article 11.  Do not believe anyone who tells you otherwise.

You don't even need to believe me.  Here is a PDF of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.  Read through Article 11 and 26, compare what has happened to what is described in each, and decide for yourself what provisions are being followed.  I think you'll agree that it's Article 11.6 and not any part of Article 26.13.

To that end, let's have an entirely informal poll.  At some point in the future, the NHLPA and the NHL will go in front of an arbitrator and argue whether the rejection is valid or not.   How do you think they'll decide?  I've cited the two possible scenarios under Article 11.6(a) after the jump in case you're interested in the actual text of the CBA.  While I can't control how you vote, please vote on what you think will happen - not what you want to happen.

Please feel free to elaborate on what you will think will happen in the comments.  If I am mistaken in my citation of the CBA, please point out where exactly I got it wrong and I'll correct this post accordingly.  As far as what to do in the meantime, may I suggest relaxing while you wait?  There's no need to get worked up over something that hasn't happened yet, in my opinion.  All the same, thanks for reading.

Outcome #1: Article 11.6(a)(iii) - The Rejection is Sustained

The arbitrator can rule in favor of the NHL and uphold the rejection of the Kovalchuk contract.  Here's what the CBA has on that:

(iii) If the Arbitrator sustains the League's rejection of any such SPC or Offer Sheet, as the case may be, pursuant to subsection (i) above, then the Arbitrator shall order that the rejected SPC or Offer Sheet, as the case may be, will, immediately upon the League's receipt of the Arbitrator's decision, be deemed null and void ab initio (i.e., the Player's Free Agency and/or contractual status shall revert to the status he held prior to signing his SPC or Offer Sheet, as the case may be), and the Player shall not be entitled to any of the rights or benefits provided for under the rejected SPC or Offer Sheet, as the case may be, other than the right to be paid such Paragraph 1 Salary and Bonuses (other than Signing, Roster or Reporting Bonuses, if any) earned during the period, if any, such Player played for the Club pursuant to such SPC.

In short: Kovalchuk goes back to being an unrestricted free agent, the contract with New Jersey is void, and the Devils can move on.

Outcome #2: Article 11.6(a)(v) - The Rejection is Overruled

The arbitrator can rule in favor of the NHLPA and find the rejection by the NHL to be invalid.  Here's what the CBA has on that:

(v) If the Arbitrator rules that the League's rejection of an SPC or Offer Sheet, as the case may be, pursuant to either subsection (i) or (ii) above was not proper, then the sole remedy the Arbitrator shall be authorized to provide shall be to direct the League promptly to approve and register such SPC and to direct the Club to pay to the Player such Paragraph 1 NHL Salary or Paragraph 1 Minor League Salary, as the case may be, and Bonuses, including such Signing, Roster or Reporting Bonuses, if any, that the Player would have earned had the SPC been registered and approved as of the deadline set forth in Section 11.4(d) above through the date that such SPC is in fact registered and approved (i.e., the period of time missed solely as a result of the League's improper rejection). Further, if the Player missed a games-played bonus by one (1) game, then the Arbitrator shall have the discretion to award the Player such bonus. The Arbitrator shall not be authorized to award any other bonuses, payments, damages or other equitable or legal relief to the Player.

In short: The contract at $102 million over 17 years with the original breakdown is accepted as-is by the NHL.  Kovalchuk would officially be on the Devils payroll.

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