Honestly, I can't figure this one out. The image to the left could be Ilya Kovalchuk when his contract finally runs out with the New Jersey Devils. You see, according to reports, Kovalchuk will be introduced as a New Jersey Devil tomorrow where it is rumoured he will sign a seventeen-year, $102 million contract. You read that correctly. A child born today will be 17 years old when Kovalchuk's new contract has finally expired, making the Russian a free agent/pension collector. Kovalchuk will be 44 years-old when the contract expires, thereby guaranteeing he'll be a New Jersey Devil for the rest of his NHL career barring any trade made by GM Lou Lamoriello that involves Kovalchuk.
Let's break this down so you can see how 17 years of $102 million shakes down. Kovalchuk's age at the time of the salary shifts will be in parentheses:
- Years 1-2 (28-29) = $6 million annually.
- Years 3-7 (30-34) = $11.5 million annually.
- Year 8 (35) = $10.5 million.
- Year 9 (36) = $8.5 million.
- Year 10 (37) = $6.5 million.
- Year 11 (38) = $3.5 million.
- Year 12 (39) = $750,000.
- Years 13-17 (40-44) = $550,000 annually.
Here's why I have zero respect for Ilya Kovalchuk: he just proved he's bigger than any team. He turned down a twelve-year, $101 million contract from the Atlanta Thrashers before being traded to the New Jersey Devils after it was revealed that the Thrashers went as high as they could according to salary cap rules. The Los Angeles Kings offered him a fifteen-year, $80 million deal that would keep the Kings competitive by not destroying any cap room created by GM Dean Lombardi, but Kovalchuk again balked at the deal.
Instead, GM Lou Lamoriello got a little creative by tacking on five-to-six-years of contract that is just barely above the league minimum in order to give himself some wiggle room when it comes to signing other important players. Like Zach Parise, for example. They gave Kovalchuk exactly what he wanted: ten years at $10 million per year on average. In order to give him that, Kovalchuk had to agree to "accept" $3.5 million over six years at the end of the contract to give the Devils what they desperately needed: a cap hit of $6 million annually.
Kovalchuk gets what he wants: a ton of cash to play hockey.
Lamoriello gets what he needs: a superstar in Kovalchuk, and cap room to spare.
Devils fans gets what they want: a legitimate superstar who won't leave before he's 38 (most likely).
I just don't like this deal.
The Devils, particularly Lamiorello, did exactly what he's allowed to do, but he's skirting the cap rules to take advantage of a loophole. Why can't the Penguins sign Sidney Crosby to a 70-year contract so that the cap hit is a meager $10 per season? Can the Los Angeles Kings sign Drew Doughty to a 50-year deal that allows his cap hit to be no more than $100 per season? Doesn't this seem ludicrous to you?
This back alley deal between agent Jay Grossman and GM Lou Lamoriello stinks. It's not like Kovalchuk will be playing past the age of 40. Heck, there aren't many stars who stick around at the age of 37 when Kovalchuk will still be earning a healthy $6.5 million for his work. Kovalchuk will still have seven years of salary left at 37!
Look, I'm not complaining about the rules, but the NHL needs to put its foot down. The salary cap was designed to keep salaries in check and to allow all teams to pursue free agents if they had the cap room. By signing Kovalchuk through to the ridiculous age of 44, the New Jersey Devils have now proved that the salary cap rules are simply designed to be broken. If I'm one of the other twenty-nine owners, I'm calling for Commissioner Gary Bettman to step in on this one.
Otherwise, if I'm Ray Shero or Peter Chiarelli or Dean Lombardi, I'm signing all my star players for the next sixty years. And no one will have a shot at any of my talented young stars.
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!