Training camp is two weeks away for NHL teams. For the New Jersey Devils, that may or may not be with perennial 40-goal scorer Ilya Kovalchuk, who has actually been signed twice this off-season, and according to Darren Dreger via Twitter, the second contract is not likely to be approved. The implications of this rejection could be devistating to many parties, and here's why.
At this point, any senario would impact somebody within hockey. Now, should the league reject the contract, it shows Lou Lamoriello and the Devils, who have never attempted a "front-loaded deal" before, that the Devils can attempt to sign a superstar, and it isn't always so easy. Lamoriello never broke any rules literally, but if you believe the NHL and arbitrator Richard Bloch, the "spirit" of the league's Collective Bargaining Agreement has been disrupted. It is difficult to disrupt a CBA that has so many loopholes and areas of uncertainty. The effect, however, will be felt throughout the league, this due to the inevitable arbitration hearing that will again follow the potential rejecting. Should the league win for a second time, the NHLPA falls deeper and deeper into a hole that will be very difficult to climb out of before the CBA expires, and the NHL would have an easy time passing whatever they would like to pass in the next agreement. However, should the very weak union win the hearing, the league loses its power and other teams will massive contracts can move on.
In retrospect, the NHL could still approve this contract. This would not only keep a top flight superstar in the National Hockey League, but it also keeps the league in charge and the power to continue investigations in other contracts such as the Luongo contract, Hossa, Savard, etc. (Chris Pronger is off the hook.) Whether you like it or not, the league has the authority to terminate an already approved contract and damage the guilty team.
The bottom line is, this is NOT the time for the NHL and the PA to be at war with each other, essentially utilizing Ilya Kovalchuk and the Devils as an excuse to negotiate guidelines for future contracts. If the league "investigates" other contracts or continues to stall in the Kovalchuk process, NHL teams are suffering to move on through the off-season. In the case of the Devils, Lamoriello cannot execute a trade to clear salary cap until the league makes a decision.
Now, to the Dreger tweet, his consecutive tweets read like this:
"Good discussions Thurs between NHL and PA, but no settlement. Kovy deal is tied to this, so postponement today seems likely at this point." /// "Without a settlement and clarity on what teams, players and agents can and cannot do, I believe Kovalchuk's deal is rejected...again."
What is the NHL trying to prove? They certainly cannot complain with the power given to them by the victory in the previous arbitration hearing. Postponing this hearing only complicates matters further. The league and the PA need to take their "dirty business outside." Rejecting the deal causes more tension between the two parties, while the league jeopardizes its power. Considering this is no physical content that Lamoriello and Jay Grossman are violating out of the CBA, it would be in every party's best interest to approve the Kovalchuk contract. It is less front-loaded than Hossa's contract and just as long as Rick DiPietro's contract. The league is out of excuses, and they are out of time. The PA needs to step up, SOMEHOW, and get this contract stamped and registered. Everyone needs to move on, including the Devils organization.
Picking on an organization doesn't seem fair, either, does it? What possessed the league to draw the line this summer with this particular contract? The league and PA had not negotiated previously regarding this topic, why start now and seem relentless all of a sudden? The other aspect the league clearly has overlooked are fans. Fans are not stupid, they see the league and PA look bad, and for a sport that needs every viewer it can attract, this is certainly not the best marketing ploy they could have pursued. Maybe it's time for everyone to take a step back...