Round 1: Testimony

The Kovalchuk case is all but started.  The “system” arbitrator is in place (Richard Bloch), the locale has been set (Boston), and the date has been made (Tuesday).

Wait, Tuesday?  That’s tomorrow!

Road trip anyone?

Well, here’s the low down on what we expect.  Richard Bloch, not to be confused with the one half of H&R Block (who died in 2004, by the way), dealt with sports arbitrations a great deal.  He handled some NFL arbitration cases and was also selected in a few NHL cases as well.

I could rattle them off, but you probably don’t know or don’t care about them.  There is one, however, that will live in my mind for a long time.  If you remember back to the summer of 2006, Scott Gomez filed for arbitration.  He was awarded a $5 million contract by none other than our good friend Richard Bloch.

This day lives in infamy because it started the “Days Left with the Devils” clock on Scott Gomez.  Lou did not like the outcome.

If you try to read in to this, you’d think that Bloch was a player friendly guy – but try not to.

My assumption here is that he’s going to look at facts.

Fact 1: Is the Devils contract for Ilya Kovalchuk front-loaded?
Yes!  The sheer numbers do not lie, this contract pays him out a great deal more up front over the next 10 years than the last 7.

Fact 2: Does this contract lower the single season cap hit?
Yes!  Again, simple math tells us that because of the low numbers at the end of the contract, the Devils cap hit is only between $5 and $6 million when they are paying out $10 and $11 million for a number of seasons.

Fact 3: Do points 1 and 2 circumvent the CBA?
No!

Here’s the hard truth of the matter.  The CBA does not explicitly outline guidelines for what contracts can and cannot be.

  • At no time does the CBA limit the term length of the contract.
  • It does not give the NHL permission to predict how long a player might play for.
  • It does limit the amount the contract can drop from season to season, and the Devils are within those guidelines.

The current CBA is what outlines the fact that a player’s “cap hit” is the average of all the seasons’ salaries combined.

At this point, the NHL does not have the authority to change the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.  They cannot unilaterally change what they interpret the CBA to mean in a situation like this.  Instead, these points, if the NHL wants to change them, must do it at the next CBA negotiations.

My recommendation – during the next CBA talks – the NHL must make one change: whatever a player makes this season, that’s how much the cap hit is.  That’ll solve this problem.

Rumors are we’ll have a decision early next week.  I’m putting my money on Lou and the Devils.

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