Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Maverick Or Genius?

Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to introduce you to the man that might just be the smartest hockey man on the planet if it weren't for him being in charge of the second-best league on the planet. Alexander Medvedev, pictured to the left, is the head honcho when it comes to the KHL. He calls the shots, he makes the rules, he is "the man". However, Medvedev's offer to free-agent-in-limbo Ilya Kovalchuk today should have a few heads turning as players no longer just laugh off the KHL as some "old-timer league".

While Kovalchuk is still the biggest diamond available on the market, Medvedev decided to drop a bombshell of an offer in trying to lure the Russian sniper back to the Motherland. While the NHL and NHLPA slap each other around in front of an independent arbitrator at some point in the future, it could all be moot if Kovalchuk took Medvedev's offer as seriously as he did Lou Lamoriello's offer.

Medvedev floated this offer across the pond to Ilya Kovalchuk and his agent, Jay Grossman: a seventeen-year contract, and the ability to play where ever he chooses. As for money? Well, Medvedev really isn't hurting when it comes to his financial statement, so I'm quite certain that the $102 million that is up for grabs in the NHL would be delivered by Medvedev to Kovalchuk if he chooses the Russian offer.

Now, let me make something very clear here: Kovalchuk has stated time and again that his interest is playing in the NHL. However, with the contract he signed with the Devils being disputed by the NHL and NHLPA, the financial security that he was searching for may not be there if the arbitrator rules on the NHL's side. So if the arbitrator rules that the 17-year, $102 million is invalid as per the NHL's salary cap rules, there is absolutely no reason why Kovalchuk couldn't accept Medvedev's offer as the highest bidder.

In that scenario, Kovalchuk gets financial security in a relatively tax-free environment, he gets to play at home in Russia, and he is the poster boy for everything KHL. Not a bad deal, I'd say, and one that Kovalchuk may actually consider if the NHL wins the grievance.

The key in all this is that Medvedev would have secured the best player available on the free agent market by simply doing what the NHL wouldn't. If Kovalchuk doesn't sign with the KHL, Medvedev is out nothing and can continue on as if nothing happened.

If the KHL really wants to stick it to the NHL, this is how it can be done. It's savvy, it's intelligent, and it is all within the IIHF-NHL transfer rules since free agents can sign anywhere they like. For all the animosity between the NHL and KHL, this is probably the craziest move that could pay off in a big way that we've seen yet.

Kovalchuk, meanwhile, is in the best win-win situation he could ever hope for as long as he is open to moving back home. If he doesn't get $102 million from the New Jersey Devils, he can get it from the KHL. The NHL loses one of its marquee stars while the KHL secures its "Sidney Crosby"-like player to market and promote their league.

Alexander Medvedev could be just crazy enough for this offer to work. All it will take is selling Kovalchuk on the beauty of the Siberian winter over the New Jersey swamps. $102 million could be the price in that sale.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

1 comment:

Sage Confucius said...

This is a very smart move by Medvedev. It would certainly help the KHL to have someone young and relevant like Kovalchuk. However, I don't see Kovy taking this off no matter what happens with the appeal. He wants to win a Stanley Cup. He obviously cannot do that in the KHL. If this was always about money he could have stayed in Atlanta.