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The First CBA Shot Has Been Fired

from Anthony J. SanFilippo of the Daily Times,

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has the ability to bring out the best of two emotions: he can make you laugh hysterically or infuriate you — usually at the same time….

The league has no leg to stand on with the Kovalchuk deal, yet denied it anyway. The Devils and the NHLPA feel they have a structured deal within the parameters set forth by the CBA, and they likely have. As such, they filed a grievance Monday.

The league knew that was coming and will likely lose the arbitration. But even if it wins, the whole reason it balked was to fire the first salvo in what promises to be another arduous contract battle with the NHLPA following the 2011-12 season.

It’s laughable because it’s so frivolous. It’s infuriating because it brings a black eye to a sport that has had far too many on Bettman’s watch.

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Filed in: NHL Talk, NHLPA, | KK Hockey | Permalink
 

Comments

Mandingo's avatar

The league has no leg to stand on with the Kovalchuk deal, yet denied it anyway. The Devils and the NHLPA feel they have a structured deal within the parameters set forth by the CBA, and they likely have. As such, they filed a grievance Monday.

The league knew that was coming and will likely lose the arbitration.

Really? This pretty much flies in the face of everything I’ve read from, you know, actual lawyers.

It’s amazing how many hockey writers and bloggers have all of a sudden become experts in collective bargaining agreements and contract law.

Kovy and the Devils won’t be sanctioned or fined, but there is no way in hell this contract is going to be allowed to stand. The Zetterberg/Hossa/Luongo argument is false equivalency and no arbitrator is going to fall for it.

Posted by Mandingo from The Garage on 07/27/10 at 11:16 AM ET

Evilpens's avatar

He’s a Philly MORON Kool-Aid drinker !! Next !!!

Posted by Evilpens on 07/27/10 at 11:23 AM ET

Nathan's avatar

Really? This pretty much flies in the face of everything I’ve read from, you know, actual lawyers.

It’s amazing how many hockey writers and bloggers have all of a sudden become experts in collective bargaining agreements and contract law.

Kovy and the Devils won’t be sanctioned or fined, but there is no way in hell this contract is going to be allowed to stand. The Zetterberg/Hossa/Luongo argument is false equivalency and no arbitrator is going to fall for it.

Posted by Mandingo from The Garage on 07/27/10 at 09:16 AM ET

Please explain what makes you think the NHL has a stronger case than the NHLPA.

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 07/27/10 at 12:28 PM ET

Nathan's avatar

Mandingo, for the record, I’m not saying you’re right or wrong, I just want to see the argument behind your assertion. To this point, I’ve heard plenty of compelling arguments that the NHLPA has a much strong case, and no arguments that the NHL has the stronger case, so I’d like to hear from the other side here so I can make a proper decision on what I think is right and will happen.

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 07/27/10 at 12:30 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

From what I’ve read, the only argument the league has is common sense, which often has no place in a courtroom or, more to the point, an arbiter’s table.

The history has been that very few players have ever played at an NHL level until they were 44.  The League will just about have to put all of their eggs in this one basket to argue that the contract is a violation of the CBA based on an expectation of retirement.  Lou Lamiorello’s comments about how he doesn’t like being able to do this, but he’ll take advantage while he can is another argument.

There needs to be a clear-cut definition and rule change regarding what precisely will make contracts like this disallowed or allowed in the future.  If the league will not allow the Kovalchuk contract, why should they have allowed the Hossa contract?  Is it because Kovalchuk has four straight years making what’s currently only $50k above league minimum?  Is it the two extra years (by age)?  If so, I want that written plainly.

I could be very wrong here, but I don’t think that they need to wait for a whole new CBA to solve this either.  I believe that a vote by the BoG and the PA could lay out specifics before 2012 to keep egregious-yet-legal contracts at bay.

I still don’t understand how a league can fail to punish Matt Cooke based on the fact that they claimed they didn’t have a specific rule in place which allowed them to, yet they’‘ll deny the Kovalchuk contract, despite the same problem.

I just worry that a ruling in favor of the league will set precedent allowing Bettman to cancel any contract that they either simply don’t like or doesn’t fit into their plan (since from a monetary standpoint, having Kovalchuk in Los Angeles is probably a bigger benefit to the NHL than having him play in New Jersey).

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 07/27/10 at 12:46 PM ET

Nathan's avatar

To me, common sense is that this is the NHL’s CBA, and now they should have to deal with it. They could’ve had it any way they wanted.

The players conceded almost everything. Now they (and GMs of financially stable clubs) have found a way to get around it without violating the CBA. Tough.

This reminds me of trading baseball cards as a kid. You trade away a card you don’t like, only to find out later in life it’s worth more than you ever realized. At the time, you got exactly what you wanted, but you were too young and stupid to have any foresight… this is what the NHL has done to themselves.

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 07/27/10 at 01:07 PM ET

Primis's avatar

As I state din the other thread, other GM’s should say “OK fine then.  We’re using the small amounts on the back-end as precedent and readjusting what we think fair player values are by readjusting the average every season, not by the average cap hit”.

When the players suddenly find themselves being worth $1m or 2m less a year, I bet the PA will suddenly act quickly to squash the practice.

See, nobody ever considered what the ramifications would be if a player really DOES play at a high level at those late stages, or the havoc it would wreak on player values….

Posted by Primis on 07/27/10 at 01:41 PM ET

Nathan's avatar

See, nobody ever considered what the ramifications would be if a player really DOES play at a high level at those late stages, or the havoc it would wreak on player values….

Posted by Primis on 07/27/10 at 11:41 AM ET

Fair point, and on the other side, people are forgetting that GMs and owners are also giving the “okay” on these deals… so methinks during the next round of bargaining, the players will have some friends around league front offices that agree with their view. The big market teams sucked it up and allied with their small market brothers in the last lockout. I would think this time around the teams in good markets will demand more instead of giving in to the demands of Li’l Gary and the small market owners, because the bottom line is that unless Gary can deliver the large TV contract he’s promised for so long, the big market owners have no good reason to continue to subsidize the crummy markets.

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 07/27/10 at 01:51 PM ET

UMFan's avatar

What does Bettman want from this situation? Does he want contract term limits or maybe getting rid of average contract amounts that pertain to the cap? What is his end game? Does he want continuous roster unstability to the tune of 4-5 year total average roster turnover? We all heard of the grumblings that were associated with the Frazen, Zetterberg, Luongo, Pronger and Hossa deals. What does he want? Some kind of league utopia whereby owners and general managers swear away creative financing?

Posted by UMFan from Denver, Colorado on 07/27/10 at 04:59 PM ET

Baroque's avatar

What does Bettman want from this situation?

McDonaldsization of the NHL. All teams equally good, equally bad, equally likely to make the playoffs, equally boring - interchangeable.

If the “product” is as standardized as possible then the revenues will be reliable, I suppose. Just because it works with fast food doesn’t mean it will work with hockey.

Posted by Baroque from Michigan on 07/28/10 at 09:05 AM ET

Avatar

The history has been that very few players have ever played at an NHL level until they were 44.

The problem though is that there HAVE been players who played at that age, and as recently as last season we had a player who was 47 so it’s a lot harder for the NHL to “prove” that Kovalchuk won’t be playing at 44.

The other thing is this: if Detroit signed Lidstrom to a 4-year deal this year would the NHL have approved it?  I’m guessing they would have, and they’d stand behind the “35+” rule for the reasoning, but if you’re going to enforce that rule then you have to abide by the rule that was set for players who sign contracts BEFORE they’re 35, and that rule is that if the player retires before the end of the term then the contract comes off the books.  And if you’re not going to allow the Kovalchuk contract then it opens a HUGE can of worms.  What’s to stop the Flyers from arguing that Pronger’s contract should be off the books if he retires before it’s over?  Sure, it’s a 35+ contract, but the NHL rejected a legit, by-the-letter-of-the-CBA contract, so why should the Flyers have to honour their side of it?

This is posturing by the NHL, giving everyone a warning about what’s coming for the next CBA negotiations and nothing more.  They tried to do this last year when they announced they were investigating the Hossa contract but something shiny caught Gary’s eye and he forgot about it, so this year they’re going to official route.

Posted by Garth on 07/28/10 at 10:49 AM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Posted by Garth on 07/28/10 at 08:49 AM ET

I wholeheartedly agree.  The fact that there have been players to play past that age clearly demonstrates that it’s a possibility.  It’s just pretty much the only hope the league has if they actually want to win this arbitration case.  Of course, I also agree with you that this is more about posturing leading into the next round of CBA talks rather than a concerted effort to defeat this one contract.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 07/28/10 at 10:59 AM ET

Nathan's avatar

Still waiting for Mandingo to point out where the “real” legal experts don’t think the NHLPA is going to win this thing…

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 07/28/10 at 11:07 PM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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