The war is on now. The NHL having defeated the grievance filed by Ilya Kovalchuk and the New Jersey Devils are now looking into other long term contracts that they haven't been thrilled with. Is Gary Bettman seeing the big picture here or only looking at what is right in front of his face? Has he forgotten what this league is all about and more importantly, has he forgotten how important the fans are to the success of this league?
I actually can't believe what I have been reading but apparently Richard Bloch's ruling on Monday could effect other front loaded contracts. Canucks general manager Mike Gillis confirmed to the Vancouver Sun via email late Monday night that the league is still looking into Roberto Luongo's 12-year contract that was signed last fall. Last September it was reported that the league was checking into the contracts of Robert Luongo, Marc Savard, Chris Pronger and Marian Hossa. All went quiet and I think most, including myself, figured that this was something that the NHL wasn't pursuing any further as the contracts were allowed by the NHL and all 4 players were allowed to play the entire season. Apparently, that's not the case as Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli met with two league appointed lawyers on August 4th as part of the leagues investigation.
Should the NHL be allowed to register a contract and then years down the road, be allowed to withdraw that contract? The NHL did the right thing when it came to Ilya Kovalchuk. The warnings were sent to the league last summer that these contracts had to stop and upon receiving another one, they put their foot down. The NHL is trying to protect its salary cap, but one has to wonder what it might ultimately cost the league.
What if those players are frustrated by having their contracts approved and then rejected years later? Will they be upset enough to contemplate leaving the NHL? Is the NHL frustrating fans to the point they leave? The whole reason that the NHL exists is simple. They bring the game of hockey into our Living Rooms every night and allow some of the worlds most talented hockey players and place to play. If a GM wants to take a risk and sign a guy VERY long term, then why not let owners sign players as long as they work within the constraints of the Collective Bargaining Agreement?
I think teams got the message this week about long term contracts, although I would imagine some might continue to push the issue but instead of sweeping this whole Kovalchuk contract debacle under the rug, the NHL is going on a very well announced fishing trip that only amplifies the issue. Why do that?
The powers that be that run the NHL haven't learned a damn thing since the lockout of 2005. If the NHL continues on this witchhunt, then ultimately it will be the fan that loses, just like we did years ago when we lost an entire season. Yes, the players may have their contracts voided but they'll find other teams or other leagues to play in but we as fans will just have to live with the league taking some of the best players away from our team when we thought they were here to stay.
Update 8.11.2010 - 1:01pm : I thought about taking down this post because after more research, I found that I am completely wrong about what I said above. I left it up because I still feel it is the fan that loses and I wanted to make that opinion known. The league DOES have the right to remove a player and his contract from a team as long as they were being investigated from the beginning. I'm amazed that this was ever written into the CBA but I imagine it was done so while not ever thinking teams would make deals that spanned 15 years or twisted the cap numbers.
Second 26.10 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement not only states that an investigation will in "no way be limited by the fact that such [Standard Player Contract] was approved and registered by Central Registry," but that "there shall be no limitation of time barring the investigation of a Circumvention by the Commissioner." As long as the investigations were ongoing -- and they have been for these contracts -- the NHL can still go after them.