Monday, July 26, 2010

Kovalchuck Decision Should Come Soon

We should find out today if Kovlachuk and the NHLPA will be challenging the contract.

As we learn more about this story, arbitration seems possible.

Since the story broke, sources have reported that the league informed the Devils it planned to reject the contract before it announced the signing last Tuesday. Nevertheless, the Devils went ahead with a Tuesday press conference announcing the signing. That suggests that battle lines were being drawn.

As well, the Devils recent statement that it hopes things "work out" does not make it sound like the Devils are looking to restructure the contract and that it may be up to Kovalchuk and the NHLPA to challenge the NHL:

“We hope it works itself out,” Devils coach John MacLean said in an interview on NBC “It was a great press conference for Ilya to sign that deal and unfortunately the league said it wasn’t up to standards for them, so we just have to wait and see how it works out. But we’re hoping that it works out in our favor.”

This is consistent with my previous posting where I argued that the Devils would not likely contest the ruling.

The NHLPA's mandate is to safeguard the best interests of the players. Its website says it best:

"...the NHLPA’s principal role is to represent the players of the National Hockey League and to guarantee that their rights as players are upheld under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement."

The NHLPA will look to decide whether taking this case to arbitration and forcing a decision is in the best interest of the players. It may not be comfortable with leaving this ruling unchallenged as doing so may effectively bar future contracts that are the same or similar. It could also make things more difficult in 2012 should the NHL push for maximum year contracts, or otherwise seek to address these long term deals.

Of course, we can't forget about Kovalchuk. He will need to decide what makes the most sense for him. Are there other better offers out there for him? Does he want to fight? A relevant factor here, however, may be that the NHLPA wants to challenge the decision. Leaving the ruling unchallenged may do the payers, as a whole, more harm than good. That is something that Kovalchuk may be sensitive to.

There is a lot to consider here. At the end of the day, with all the pros and cons laid out before them, the NHLPA may end up going to arbitration. It may conclude that to let the NHL's decision stand unchallenged is not in the best interest of the players. And we can't forget that the NHLPA does have good arguments to make (see previous postings).

So arbitration, at this point, seems like a possible outcome. We should, however, know more soon.

Stay tuned.


Anonymous said...

If Kovalchuk decides he now wants to go elsewhere would the NHLPA case still go ahead if they still want to challenge the decision?

Eric Macramalla said...

Interesting question. There does not appear to be anything in the CBA that requires the express cooperation of a player to file a grievance. That aside, I see 2 issues that suggest the NHLPA would not move forward without Kovalchuk's consent. First, should the NHLPA go to arbitration and win, the award would be the registration of the contract (i.e., the contract is good). The issue there is if Kovalchuk decides he wants to go elsewhere, then this decision may be counter to his wishes. Second, Kovalchuk is the NHLPA's client and the NHLPA must serve his best interests. Therefore, I would expect that Kovalchuk would need to be onboard for the NHLPA to move ahead with challenging the NHL's ruling. It may be a difficult sell for the NHLPA to turn to Kovalchuk and say while you don’t want to move ahead, we are.

Daniel Gilbeau said...

Very well said Eric. What is very interesting about this situation is that Lou Lamoriello is a big supporter of Gary Bettmen. Why would he design a contract that would challenge the league? Being so close to the league, wouldn't Lamoriello already have checked with the league to make sure they did not have a problem with the structure of the contract?
I would love to see the NHLPA challenge this.

Eric Macramalla said...

Agreed - interesting that Lamoriello would go ahead with announcement knowing the contract would be rejected. It seems that the Devils felt there was nothing wrong with the contract - that may be the reason.

Daniel Gilbeau said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Daniel Gilbeau said...

I like Lamoriello and compare him a lot to the old Professor Ron Caron who was GM of the St Louis Blues for many years in the 1980s. Caron was great at challenging the restricted Free agent rule. He signed big names like Scott Stevens from Washington and then Brendan Shanahan from the Devils. Caron put the league in a tough spot when he did not have the draft picks as compensation for signing Brendan Shanahan because he owed those picks to Washington already. The Devils said the league should force the Blues to give them Scott Stevens as compensation. The league agreed and the rest is history. Caron made many deals that made the Blues successful but some would say he lost out in that deal.

Eric Macramalla said...

Astute analogy Dan. Very interesting.