Major Development in Savard Contract


I originally was going to include this in the previous FanPost about why the NHL wouldn't void Marc Savard's contract, but that seemed old enough that it wouldn't get the read that I think it warrants.

Odds are, you know that the Devils agreed to a reworked deal with Ilya Kovalchuk.  (If you're just learning that, welcome back from your vacation in East Timor.)  The NHL is unhappy about this deal as well, since it's not all that different than the first one: 15 years and $100M compared to 17 years and $102M. 

As a side note, it appears I was wrong that the Devils deliberately signed Kovy to an absurd contract to rein in these contracts.  With this new one little different from the old, it seems obvious that they're trying to find the most absurd deal the NHL will actually approve.  (Hat tip to our fearless leader, SCoC; you were right and I was wrong.) 

The decision on the new contract was supposed to come yesterday, but there's been an extension granted in the deadline for approval.  Per the NY Post, the NHL has given the NHLPA an ultimatum:

The Post has learned that Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly informed the still-leaderless and obviously rudderless NHLPA by e-mail late last night that the league would grandfather the recently re-submitted Kovalchuk 15-year, $100 million contract into the collective bargaining agreement, as well as Luongo's year-old, 12-year, $64 million contract and Hossa's year-old 12-year, $63.3 million contract, under the following conditions:

1. That the cap hit on future multiyear contracts will not count any season that ends with the player over 40 years of age. The cap hit would be based on the average salary of the seasons in the contract up to age 40.

2. That the cap hit on future contracts longer than five years would be calculated by granting additional weight -- perhaps the average -- to the five consecutive years with the largest average salary.

The NHL has informed the union that if it does not accept these givebacks two years prior to the end of the CBA -- a quintuple cap, now -- then the league will take the following actions:

1. It will reject the Kovalchuk contract. The Post has learned that the final two years of the deal are for $3 million and $4 million, respectively. The final five years of the 15-year deal account for $10 million.

2 It will de-register Luongo's contract under which the goaltender will earn $3.618 million over the final three years of his deal. The goaltender is carrying a $5.333 million cap hit.

3. It will move to open a formal investigation of Hossa's contract under which the winger will earn $4 million over the final four years of his contract. Hossa is carrying a cap hit of $5.275 million per.

It is believed Bettman would use his sweeping powers under Article 26 to impose heavy penalties -- including fines to all parties, reduction of team cap space and forfeiture of team draft picks -- if circumvention is found.

The league has informed the union that it has accepted Chris Pronger's year-old, front-loaded, seven-year, $34.45 million contract with Ed Snider's Flyers under which the defenseman will earn $1.05 million over the final two years of the deal.

The status of Marc Savard's year-old, seven-year, $28.05 million contract with Jeremy Jacobs' Bruins under which the center will earn $2.55 million over the final three years, is unclear.

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ESPN Rumor Central is jumping to their usual conclusions, saying:
The NHL turning up the heat on these long-term, front-loaded deals. And while it's unclear what the state of Savard's contract is, this latest development probably means potential suitors won't want the veteran center because of the contract uncertainty they would take on.  So while the Bruins might be shopping him, it might be hard to get anyone to bite.

Wait a second. 

Maybe I'm missing something, but it seems to me that if the NHL was going to play hardball over the Savard contract, they'd have told the PA that they'd de-register the Luongo AND Savard contracts.  It seems unlikely in the extreme that they'd hold back something like that.  It's not like they don't have enough information in hand. 

This, to me, points to the conclusion that they're leaving the Savard contract alone, but don't want to say so.  The Pronger contract was obvious, and I don't know why they bothered in the first place.  It's an over 35 deal and thus CAN'T circumvent the cap. 

It's going to be fascinating to watch this unfold.  I've thought all along that the NHL was bluffing, and I still believe they are, for the reasons I previously stated.  This is bargaining in bad faith in the extreme: you can't make fundamental changes to the collective bargaining agreement in mid-stream.  However, the NHL won the last labor go-round decisively (that is, the lockout), and with the PA in a state of confusion right now, they obviously feel they can bully the players. 

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