Finally I can say something nice about Gary Bettman. Speaking bluntly I like Gary Bettman about as much as I enjoy watch the Kardashians reality show—not at all.
Bettman has been pro sports worst commissioner for over ten years now allowing the NHL to slip from its perch of one of the big four sports to just a novelty sport. Not helping his matters was the way he handled the NHL CBA in 2004, which led to the league’s lockout.
However I gained a little more respect for Bettman and the NHL powers that be yesterday when they rejected the New Jersey Devils 17 year/ 102 million dollar deal for star winger Ilya Kovalchuk. The deal was to pay him up to 98 million in the first ten years of the deal and only $550,000 after he turns 37, which is normally when a player’s production falls by the waist side.
The deal is similar to the deals made to Alex Ovechkin, Vinny Lecavalier and Marian Hossa and have become the rage of the NHL. It’s sort of a way for GM’s to beat the salary cap by frontloading deals and towards the end of the deal giving them room to sign whoever they wanted with worrying about the hit.
The NHL last year began warning teams about the deals saying that they would be quick to begin vetoing them if the were deemed corrupt—they finally followed through.
While the deals are smart for both the teams and players they had begun to become ridiculous. The lengthy deals past ten years have become jokes in hindsight, unless you’re the Islanders who are still wondering why they have to pay Rick Dipietro 40 million over the next ten years. They began to be commonplace in the league as teams were thinking about the present but leaving room for their future. How convenient is it for the Capitals to give their best player 10-12 million per year now and 750,000 at the end of the contract when younger players begin to enter the league?
Hence the reason Bettman and his cronies finally stepped in and told the Devils to re-do the contract. The league is starting to take control of these deals and making them more reasonable for the salary now and years down the road.
It’ll be interesting to see how the Devils re-work the contract as they try to keep Kovalchuk and look for a replacement for an aging Martin Brodeur. Kovy is a dynamic goal scorer who would work perfectly with Zach Parise and Patrick Elias. The Devils outbid a push by the L.A. Kings to get Kovy but now you have to wonder if L.A. will up their own offer and possibly steal him away.
Whatever the case maybe the contract itself will be some interesting paperwork. The league is watching these deals carefully and will not allow these super deals to continue unless they are fair for all sides, player, team and league. Congrats Gary Bettman you did something right. Now let’s try this promoting the star players of your league properly thing.