With all these ridiculous contracts being handed out, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman should not have penalized the New Jersey Devils two years ago. (Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE)

It Is Time For Gary Bettman To Reverse Punishment For Kovalchuk Contract


Given today’s news about the offer sheet that Shea Weber signed with the Philadelphia Flyers, it is time for NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to right a wrong.  It is time for him to swallow his pride and give back the New Jersey Devils their first-round pick that is scheduled to be docked within the next two years.

Two years ago to this very day, the Devils inked Ilya Kovalchuk to a frontloaded 17-year, $102 million deal.  The Devils held a press conference and all seemed well.  Only it wasn’t; a day later the NHL rejected the contract because they believed it circumvented the NHL’s salary cap.  An appeal was filed by the NHLPA but to no avail, it was nullified.  Another contract was submitted for 15-years and $100 million.  It was finally approved in early September.  As part of the approval, the NHL and NHLPA came to an agreement to allow such long-term, frontloaded contracts to exist but with some guidelines to follow in the back-end years where players made much less money.

Oh yea, after all that, the NHL STILL decided to penalize the Devils for circumventing the cap.  The Devils had to fork over $3 million, their 2011 third-round draft pick as well as a first-round selection within the next four seasons.  The Devils will have to forfeit their top choice in either 2013 or 2014.

Other contracts had been called into question around that time.  However, no investigations were pursued as part of the Kovalchuk deal approval.

A year before the Summer of Kovy, Marian Hossa signed for 12 years and $62.8 million with the Chicago Blackhawks.  The last four years will pay him $3.5 million.  He will be 42 when his contract is up.  HOW THE HECK DID THAT NOT GET REVIEWED?!?

Chris Pronger was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers in the summer of 2009.  He signed an extension for seven years and nearly $35 million that will take him through his 42nd birthday.  He will be paid just over $1 million dollars over the last two years of his contract.

During the 2009 offseason, goaltender Roberto Luongo received a 12-year extension from the Vancouver Canucks for $64 million, paying him through the age of 43.  Only $3.6 million will be owed to him over the final three years of the deal.

During the 2009-2010 season, Boston Bruins forward Marc Savard received a seven-year extension worth $28.05 million, with approximately $14 million of it coming in the first two years and $14 million over the final five seasons.

Towards the end of the 2009 season, Henrik Zetterberg re-upped with the Detroit Red Wings for 12 years and $73 million.  He will make $71 million over the first 10 years of the agreement.

They all had their deals approved.  No problem.

I don’t have a problem with allowing those contracts to hold up, but it was absolutely wrong for Gary Bettman to go after the Devils.  Kovalchuk’s original 17-year deal would have taken him through age 44.  So really, what is the big difference compared to Luongo’s frontloaded deal which expires when he would be 43 and Pronger’s arrangement, which ends when he is age 42.  So one or two years difference means they should dock $3 million and two draft picks from a team?  Absurd.

As recently as two weeks ago, two other contracts were also signed that were ridiculously frontloaded.  Zach Parise and Ryan Suter each signed 13-year deals for $98 million with the Minnesota Wild.  Parise and Suter will each make $2 million in TOTAL in the last two years of their pacts.

Don’t forget Brad Richards going to the New York Rangers last summer on a nine-year, $60 million arrangement.  That contract dishes out $57 million to him in the first six seasons.  He will just be hitting age 40 when the contract ends.

Here’s a wild idea.  How about getting rid of frontloaded contracts?  In Weber’s offer sheet, he will make $26 MILLION IN THE FIRST TWO YEARS of his new contract.  The kicker?  It only counts as $7.85 million against the cap for every year, because of the length of the contract, while he will make $3 million combined over the last three seasons.  Sounds a bit like the Kovy contract that got rejected, no?

Even more humorous?  There’s no labor agreement for the 2012-2013 season yet!  What are some of the biggest labor issues at hand this summer?  One, the owners believe they’re paying too much for contracts and want to rollback players’ salaries.  Wait…what?  These are the owners who just gave out these ridiculous contracts!!!!!

One of the other issues?  Length of contracts.  One report says that owners want to make it a five-year maximum for player contracts.  Again…WHAT?  These are the same owners who gave out these ridiculous long-term deals!!!!!

In essence, the league solely punished the Devils for a league-wide epidemic.  When the new CBA is banged out, nay, IF the new CBA is approved this summer, Gary Bettman and the NHL offices need to do away with that singular, “make-an-example” type punishment that could have been applied to plenty of other teams over the last few seasons.  Give the Devils back their first-round draft pick.

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Tags: Boston Bruins Brad Richards Chicago Blackhawks Chris Pronger Detroit Red Wings Gary Bettman Henrik Zetterberg Ilya Kovalchuk Marc Savard Marian Hossa Minnesota Wild New Jersey Devils New York Rangers NHL NHLPA Philadelphia Flyers Roberto Luongo Ryan Suter Shea Weber Vancouver Canucks Zach Parise