New Jersey Devils' Ilya Kovalchuk is sent off the ice for a penalty in the first period against the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 2 of their NHL Eastern Conference quarter-final hockey playoff series in Newark, New Jersey April 16, 2010. REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT ICE HOCKEY)

I can’t believe Ilya Kovalchuk only signed for 17 years, instead of 19, to match the amount of days it took his agent and the Devils to make a mockery of the CBA.

Kovalchuk is signed through to the 2026/2027 season, but he has no intentions of playing past 2021 because he will only make $750,000 in year 12 and $550,000 in the final five years of the deal. Does anyone believe he’ll play for the love of the game past his 39th birthday? How does the NHL allow teams and players to agree to contracts that they have no intention of honouring?

The players and their agents love this arrangement. They get 90-95% of their money in the years of the deal and then can retire without leaving much money on the table. Sure, the teams get to save money on the cap hit, but they still end up overpaying guys.

Kovalchuk will make $11.5 million in 2012/2013 to 2016/2017. In the 2012 season Kovalchuk will get paid $4 million more than Sidney Crosby and $1.5 million more than Alex Ovechkin. Are you freaking kidding me Lou Lamouriello? In five years Kovalchuk will be considered one of the worst contracts in the league, but why should Lou care, because there is a good chance he’ll be dead before this contract ends. Lou is a healthy 67, but after this signing he might be showing signs of going senile.

The CBA expires the summer of 2012, and I don’t see anyway the league will allow these types of contracts to continue, and they shouldn’t. Put a cap on the length of contracts. Make the maximum eight years, and once a player turns 31 the longest is five years. The players who are worth the money will still get their money, and even the guys who aren’t will still get overpaid, but at least then teams and the players will have to honour their contract.

I can’t believe in 19 days the Devils didn’t realize this was a bad contract. Here’s hoping the Devils continue their post-lockout success of first round exits.


Here is a quote from Tom Gulitti’s article (at www.northjersey.com) regarding the Kovalchuk contract. Lou Lamoriello admits he doesn’t like the contract.

I asked Lamoriello what he would think if someone brought up Kovalchuk’s contract in the next round of CBA negotiations (in two years) and pointed to it as a flaw.

“I might agree,” he said. “But there is nothing that we have done wrong. This is within the rules. This is in the CBA. There are precedents that have been set. But I would agree we shouldn’t have these. But I’m also saying that because it’s legal and this is something that ownership felt comfortable doing for the right reasons.” 

It was clear that ownership—headed by Jeff Vanderbeek—was behind this particular contract. Not that Lamoriello didn’t endorse bringing Kovalchuk back.

Still, Lamoriello said he “absolutely” rolled his eyes when the Islanders signed Rick DiPietro to a 15-year contract in 2006 and when Washington signed Alex Ovechkin to a 13-year contract in 2008. He also said he “absolutely” rolled his eyes when Kovalchuk’s contract was completed.

So why would he sign Kovalchuk to such a deal?.

“You’d have to speak to ownership about that,” Lamoriello said. “The commitment that ownership has made here, this is a commitment and a decision they wanted to make for this type of a player and all I can do is say whether the player is a player that will fit into the team, can help the team and is not a risk as a player. As far as what the financial commitment is and that aspect of it, that was out of my hands.”

If one of the smartest minds in hockey doesn’t like the deal, then the NHL should sit up and take notice.

Random Tidbits

  • I like how Kings’ GM, Dean Lombardi didn’t cave to Kovalchuk’s ludicrous demands and realized that cap flexibility and signing your own talent is the right path towards being a Cup contender. The Kings are still a few players away from contending, but Lombardi has the flexibility to make the right moves moving forward.
  • How many of you were writing off Dustin Penner at this time last summer? Don’t lie, most of you were, but that changed 20 games into the season when many of you were suggesting he should be on the short list for the Olympic team. Things can turn around quickly. Rather than turn most posts into Horcoff/anti-Horcoff repeats wait for the season to start.
  • This scenario was presented to me yesterday on TEAM 1260. Oilers trade Sheldon Souray to the Islanders for Brendan Witt. Gilbert Brule goes to arbitration the first week of August, and the Oilers accept whatever the arbitrator decides, and then they buy out Witt’s $3 million contract at $2 million spread out over two years. In theory it makes sense because the Islanders need to get to the floor and Souray would add $2.4 million. “This deal has some merit to it, but there hasn’t been a lot of serious talk about it,” an executive from one of the teams text me. We’ll see.
  • After the Esks third straight loss I was a bit surprised at Patrick Kabongo’s demeanor when he joked around with Darian Durant during an interview. I wasn’t the only one. Former Eskimo AJ Gass posted this at www.esksfans.com

“I question how much SOME vets on this team care about winning. For example, Durant was doing an interview 45 second after the game and who do we see jump into the screen and play a little grab ass with him while he’s talking…#56 Kabongo!!!

Now I like Pat, I have really enjoyed watching him grow into a legit football player, but to me this is a serious symptom of a major problem. Pat is a vet, he is probably the highest paid OL in the league, he showed his team and the entire country what losing a game means to him. Not much. If minutes after losing your 3rd straight game and remain the only winless team in the league, you laugh, smile, and joke around with the opposing QB, you are setting a horseshit example of what it means to be an Eskimo.

For any rookie watching his behavior it shows that losing is ok.”

The Eskimos’ problem is they don’t enough guys like Gass, or Bruce Beaton or Ed Hervey. Guys who play with passion and get pissed off after a loss. The Esks are better than their 0-3 record, but their high-profile players keep making key mistakes at crunch time. I wonder if they have enough winners in the dressing room to make any sort of run to the Cup. Beating Winnipeg, without Buck Pierce, and then BC next week won’t make me a believer.

  • The Boston Bruins had some of the best marketing commercials last year:

Pure gold, with the comb in the back pocket and the jersey.

How many of you have ripped your buddy for fraternizing with the enemy?

The Bear is a great mascot, and I can’t think of another team who could use their mascot and get the same results. The Sharkie in San Jose is friendly. The Duck in Anaheim is just that; a Duck. If Florida used a Black Panther it might work and the Preds could go with a Sabretooth, but both would be stretches. Kudos to the Bruins for producing the best NHL team commercials, they make the Oilers “fan picture” campaign look incredibly lame.

  • The simplest way to fix this problem is to have NBA style maximum contracts, both in term and amount.

    Max contract length: 6 years if signing with own team, 5 years if moving to another.

    Max amounts are based on how long you’ve been in the league, so players on their second contract can only go up so much before they earn veteran status and can earn league maximums.

    Update: I should also add that I believe guaranteed contracts are one of the biggest problems with the league today.

  • I know I know, I look at these contracts and cannot Fr1gg1n believe we missed a year of hockey. They sure as sh1t haven’t made it more affordable for me to take my kids to an NHL game, they will have to settle for Junior. And this is why no GM should ever chase the big fish, how does this contract ever even come close to making sense? I had thought that LOu was a fairly smart GM, ha, he fooled me….

  • There are a few different ideas out there to prevent teams from circumventing the cap.

    One way I thought up (and I’m not sure if it’s already out there.. not exactly a ground breaking idea, so i’d imagine it already is):

    What about calculating the cap hit in separate parts. There would be a cap hit calculated for salary paid when the player is less than 35 years old, and another cap hit calculated for salary paid when the player is 35+.

    So for example, a player age 30 signs a contract for 10 years, broken down like so:

    Years 1-5: $9M, 8M, 8M, 8M, 7M.
    Years 6-10: $4M, $4M, $4M, $2M, $1M

    The cap hit from age 30-34 would be $8M per season (9+8+8+8+7 / 5).

    The cap hit from age 35-39 would be $3M per season (4+4+4+2+1).

    Thoughts? Would it work? Is there a reason it wouldn’t? Just throwing some other random ideas out there.

    Edit: oops, I guess after age 35+, there would need to be a limit on the number of years you can sign someone for this to work too. Otherwise someone could sign a 35+ player for several years past their retirement age, like they do now, and that 35+ portion would still allow them to circumvent the cap. But I still think it is a good idea to split up the cap hits as above. Really, no matter what, it sounds like some sort of max years cap needs to be in place. But I like the idea of having a “prime” cap hit and a “decline” cap hit.

    • Slocan

      This is an interesting point. Another spin on this concept, (using your scenario of a player signed to a 10 year deal at 55 million).

      Player decides to call it quits after year 5. Player pays back the difference of the salary cap to the actual dollars paid ($40 million salary for the first 5 yrs minus $27.5 million cap hit) = $12.5 million paid back to the team.

      Would this be incentive enough for the player to honor the remaining terms of the contract? The franchise is the one that benefits the back half of the contract as the salary becomes more of a value (that and the lower cap hit over the term)but you’re still shelling out the big bucks on the front end. I don’t know…

  • Quicksilver ballet


    You do know that the current CBA guarantees that the actual pay checks the players receive out of escrow cannot go above or below 54% of league revenue, no?

    So the league won’t pay more for player salaries, because of Kovy’s salary and wouldn’t pay more if every player signed a Kovy-deal.

    These deals allow guys like Kovy to eat a much larger share of the pie, and the group most likely to hate them is the players, or at least the large majority of players who aren’t as good as Kovy.

    Your post makes it seems like teams are going to lose money because of deals like this, but that’s literally impossible.

    • Jason Gregor

      Where did I write that teams lose money. I said they overpay for guys. Kovalchuk will get $95 million in the first ten years. Do you not think that is a massive overpayment?

      Sure the other players will be pissed, but the NHLPA will never try to stunt the contracts of the elite players.

      And I do understand the escrow factor, but I don’t see where I wrote anything that relates to that. I said it was an overpayment, and these contracts aren’t good for the league. More on an integrity front than anything else. I’m no lawyer, but I wonder how they can say these contracts are legit when it seems both sides have no intention of honouring the entire contract. Not sure if that is illegal, but it sure looks brutal.

  • Does NJ have a six million dollar cap hit until 2027 regardless of whether he plays or not? If he quits in 2015 does their cap get hit for another 12 years anyway?

    If so, it sounds like Dion Sanders and the niners. As long as NJ is carrying that cap hit the distance, I guess I don’t care how long they stretch it out. The niners sucked for ten years after those contracts. Still, I’m not sure it’s really in the spirit of the CBA.

    Thanks for adding the Bruin commercials. The bear slamming the beer tray busted me up.

  • Too bad the next CBA will snub out these contracts. Just think if Hall, Eberle and MPS all turn out to be the studs they are projected to be. Each could sign $100M, 25 year contracts.

    There definately needs to be a cap on the number of years on these crazy contracts.

  • If anything with player contracts made sense, Kovalchuk would be making $1 million as a base salary and another million for every 5 goals he scored during the season. (ex 50 goals = $11 million/year) Still too much, but it would begin to justify these stupid contracts. I’m pretty sure that incentive contracts like this are not allowed in the CBA, probably because it would force the players to actually try on a nightly basis.

    The Bruins commercials are hilarious, especially the one when when Sea-Bass stares down the bear. Gold.

  • Even if the NHL and NHLPA agree to new terms concerning contract length, do these contracts (Hossa, Kovalchuk, Zetterberg, Luongo) that have already been signed just press on through?

    I would like to see these teams have to take the cap hit on what the players are making that year. Or if that would put too much of a screw into things allow each team to have a “Franchise” style player where they can take that players hit off of the books for however long he is classified as such.

    On the Horcoff front. I really hope he bounces back to a 48-60pt player. You have to think his shoulder was pretty messed up for him to have such a terrible season. Not to mention the amount of faceoffs he takes must put extra strain on the shoulder as well.

  • I have never seen the tuck one before, it’s clever.

    @ Gregor

    On the Mascott thing, you were talking a few weeks back about Eskimo’s mascotts? Did you ever find out the name of the original one, not the safeway guy?

    The Carolina Hurricanes use a pig as a mascot, Stormy. I think it is simply for the love of “grilling” pork while tailgating. Pigs & ice usually don’t mix.

  • good post Jason i agree with you most of this nonsense re contracts is a joke hope they get it fixed asap. In regards to Penner i believe it’s the same guy who pulled the chute once he was not asked to join team canada sorry i have watched him play games when he feels like it time for the oil to get rid of him for someone who will give there all 82games a season