Food for Thought: How Richard Bloch Opened a Scary Door

We're less than a day removed from the decision by systems arbitrator Richard Bloch that confirmed the NHL's stance on the Ilya Kovalchuk contract.  Since then, many things are being said about what the Kovalchuk decision means not only for the future of long-term contracts, but also for the past.  In my post yesterday, I stated that I don't believe that the league will do much about contracts already signed.  I still believe there's less danger to existing contracts than there's being made to sound, but Bloch did specifically mention several contracts that are similar to the Kovalchuk deal.

Eric Macramalla at Offside: A Sports Law Blog points out that under section 26.10(b), the NHL does have the authority to look back at other contracts to investigate possible cap circumventions.  He does point out though, that the league is not nearly as likely to be able to win one of the previous cases in arbitration.  However, after reviewing the wording that Bloch used in the footnotes of his findings, he did see that Bloch did specifically say that the contracts for Chris Pronger, Roberto Luongo, Marc Savard, and Marian Hossa are being investigated with the possibility of withdrawal by the league (a sigh of relief for Zetterberg and Franzen fans).

Here's where it gets interesting.  Put on your tin-foil hats and join me after the jump.

It's almost universally agreed upon by hockey fans that the Marian Hossa contract is by far the most similar to the Ilya Kovalchuk contract in terms of years tacked on to the end at very low salary figures that takes him into years where few NHL players are still active.  It would stand to reason that if any previously registered contract would get the subsequent axe of the NHL Department of Vague Decision-Making, Marian Hossa's contract would.  The question then becomes "exactly what is the league helping here?"  The Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup utilizing the services of Marian Hossa under a registered contract.  If the league finds circumvention by Hossa and the Hawks in creating that contract, then what of the Stanley Cup-Winning team that used Hossa to help them win the trophy?  They had an illegal contract on their roster for one year, the year that was to be their well-publicized "one best shot at winning the cup" and made their goal.  I seriously doubt that the league is going to take away Chicago's cup for the one contract (especially considering that, for his salary, Hossa brought less than his fair share to the table for their cup run), but is the league striking a blow against contracts that fly in the face of the Spirit of the CBA or are they helping the Hawks shed the salary they still need to shed?  The same could be said if the league challenges the Marc Savard deal, since Boston is having cap issues as well and could very well want to get rid of Savard.

De-registering Marian Hossa's contract after the damage has been done would more seriously call into question the integrity of league decision-makers, who already have several business-before-fair-play questions to answer in light of the way revenue sharing tends to do too little to help struggling small markets, different refereeing standards for regular and post-season play, decisions of which teams the league seems the "favor", and in allowing a television network that doesn't pay the league for the rights to air its games to make decisions on who plays and when.  Make no mistake, doing this would cost the league fans.

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