Kovalchuk ruling could put Pronger extension in jeopardy

On Monday, arbitrator Richard Bloch made the ground-breaking ruling to uphold the NHL’s right to abolish Ilya Kovalchuk’s 17-year, $102 million deal with the New Jersey Devils, based on the grounds that the deal was created to circumvent the salary cap.

But as the official news spread, general managers around the league began to tremble, because this ruling didn’t just set a precedent for future deals — it could even change the past.  For not only did Bloch tear apart the Kovalchuk deal, he mentioned, by name, the deals for Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo, Boston’s Marc Savard, Chicago’s Marian Hossa and Philly’s Chris Pronger, as example of infraction.

Bloch wrote

“While the contracts have, in fact, been registered, their structure has not escaped League notice: those SPCs [standard player’s contracts] are being investigated currently with at least the possibility of a subsequent withdrawal of the registration.”

According to the Vancouver Sun, the investigations have begun on said contract. Canucks GM Mike Gillis confirmed to Elliott Pap of The Sun that the Luongo contract is indeed under scrutiny by the league.

Gillis said

“We have complied with the NHL request for information and are awaiting further instructions. Cannot say anything further at this point.”

Luongo, 31,  begins the first year of a 12-year contract that will pay him $64 million starting in 2010-11.  He will be 43 and make just $1 million by the final year of the deal, giving him a cap hit of just $5.3 million throughout.

Sound familiar?  Luongo’s deal, the one being investigated, is similar to the extension Pronger signed with the Flyers prior to the 2009-10 season, which will pay him $34.45 million for seven years starting with the 2010-11 stanza.  The aging defender will be 42 at the deal’s end and will make $525,000 in the final year, giving him a manageable cap hit of $4.921 million.

But according to Bloch, that’s a no-no — meaning Pronger’s deal may need to be re-worked should the league decide to attack.  And that threat is real.

James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail talked with an anonymous agent, who described a type of hunting season for the league to combat contracts like Pronger’s, in an attempt to achieve compliant deals by all organizations.

“The league has two months now to go after Savard, Pronger and Luongo,” the agent told Mirtle. “Until they start getting paid, they’ve got two months.”

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Kovalchuk ruling could put Pronger extension in jeopardy

  1. Couldn’t the Flyers just point to a player like Niklas Lidstrom ($7.6 million cap hit) and argue that elite defensemen can play at a high level into their early 40’s?

    Or to a lesser extent, players like Rob Blake ($4 million cap hit) Mathieu Schneider ($2.5 million cap hit). These are just recent examples off the top of my head.

    Scott Stevens played until he was 40, and I think he was making some dough.

    Pronger is as good or better a player than all of these examples. I never understood why a 42-year old Pronger was such a stretch when there are several examples of elite players (Pronger being one of them) that turn out to be durable.

    What was Chelios making from ages 40-42? I doubt he was at the league minimum, although that was at a time before the new CBA. But still…

    Just my two cents (way below the salary cap floor, mind you).

    • I don’t get the feeling that age plays an enormous part in the problem with the contracts. It’s more so the fact that they are front-loaded with a major percentage difference between the starting salary and the final salary. My guess is the league will start a rule that the percentage difference has to be no more than a certain amount in order to keep teams from lowering the cap hit. Pronger’s problem is that he makes $7 million in year one and $525,000 in year seven.

  2. Pingback: Insanity Clause? « petshark

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