Deciphering Bloch’s Ruling

In my hands, I have a copy of Bloch’s ruling…for one reason and one reason only…

Last night, I was talking to Joe Yerdon who writes the hockey columns for NBC. We were discussing my new challenge to the NHL.

That challenge was basically: why doesn’t the NHL submit to the Devils guidelines on what is a suitable multi-year contract in order to speed up the process to get Kovalchuk inked.

Truthfully, why do the Devils have to submit proposals all of the time? This new ruling is left to interpretation. Exactly what does it mean? The NHL’s interpretation needs to be laid out so that the Devils, the league, agents and players understand what is an acceptable long-term contract.

While some say that it would contradict the CBA, or even the spirit of the CBA by coming up with these guidelines, truthfully, this ruling is completely left field and needs a clear guideline on how the NHL interprets the ruling. Because truthfully, there’s a big hole in it and we’re all looking at it going, “HUH?”

In the end, just what does this ruling mean for long-term contracts and what would be deemed as NHL appropriate contracts, especially for those that are front-loaded? Should there be an age limit imposed for all multi-year contracts? What about the dollar amounts available to be awarded each year?

The NHL needs to create clear guidelines for the teams to understand. In Kovalchuk’s case, time is running out. Both the KHL and NHL seasons are quickly approaching and as of today, he has no contract. The KHL pre-season begins in a little over a week. For the NHL, it’s in three weeks. The clock is ticking down and now is no time to waste.

Just imagine how many extra days everyone would have had if he signed on July 1!

Now, another point that was raised last night was Lou Lamoriello and Jay Grossman’s eligibility for next season. Elliotte Friedman raised some interesting points from the CBA.

When they submit their paperwork for renewal as GM and agent, when asked if they circumvented the CBA, do they check yes or no?

While the joke was Lou would say NO, and if you debated it, then he’d challenge you to prove it, it still begs the question. Did they?

Now, this is why I truly have Bloch’s ruling in front of me.

“Nothing in this Opinion should be read as suggesting that either the Club or Mr. Kovalchuk operated in bad faith or on the basis of any assumption other than that the [standard player’s contract (“SPC”)] was fully compliant with the CBA. While intent is specifically listed as a potentially relevant factor in a proceeding such as this, the System Arbitrator here concludes the SPC terms themselves demonstrate this agreement “has the effect of defeating” the provisions of the CBA, with particular reference to the Team Payroll Range language.”

So did they circumvent the CBA or not? It says specifically that they didn’t.

So then if they did not circumvent the CBA, how is it that the contract was circumventing the CBA and considered void?

The language in the original letter from Bill Daly to the New Jersey Devils was pretty clear. He says the elements are all there that they were circumventing the CBA with this contract.

So then what is it? If the contract was deemed as circumventing the CBA, doesn’t that mean that technically Kovalchuk and the Devils circumvented the CBA? Even if no intent was there because they believed they were following the rules because there were several other contracts with similar deals that had already established precedent (although it does say that Kovalchuk’s case was demonstrably more dramatic) then doesn’t that mean that they circumvented the CBA? After all, the contract was deemed as a circumvention.

The language is so shoddy that I’m sure a judge would look at this and throw it out. Because you can’t say well, they didn’t circumvent the CBA, but the contract they constructed did.

Simply put…IT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE!

Based on the fact that the contract was deemed as circumventing the CBA, I would think that Lamoriello and Grossman have to check YES by the box saying they had circumvented the CBA. But that little clause there says they didn’t.

*scratching head*

Yeah…no common sense need apply here because it doesn’t exist.

As much as I’ve been a huge supporter of Ilya Kovalchuk remaining as a New Jersey Devil, seeing the rules laid out before me in the ruling, including the specific language that challenges the contract, I have to ask why these rules were overlooked in the design of the contract.

Truthfully, I’ve agreed with the NHL’s assessment…all because of the tail end of the contract. If it was a red flag for me, how could it not be for the NHL?

And here’s the rule on why it’s a red flag:

Article 50. Team Payroll Range System

Section 50.7 “100 Percent Rule” for Multi-Year SPCs. The difference between the stated Player Salary and Bonuses in the first two League Years of an SPC cannot exceed the amount of the lower of the two League Years. Thereafter, in all subsequent League Years of the SPC, (i) any increase in the Player Salary and Bonuses from one League Year to another may not exceed that amount.

See where the Kovalchuk contract went completely wrong?

I say just trim the fat and sign him to 2020-2021.

I’ve always been in favor of teams making players over the age of 35 sign one-year deals and no more. Signing him to an 11-year contract puts him at the age of 38. If he still wants to play after that, he can start signing one-year deals.

You can thank Brendan Shanahan for that rule. I do. I think it’s a great rule, even if it didn’t work in Shanahan’s favor when he hit 40.

Face it, you can’t always get what you want. Sometimes you have to make compromises just so you can gain what you really want. After all, in reality, no one knows what will happen in ten years.

I say, submit contract #1, just leave out the latter part and sign him until 2020-21 and re-do the final year by giving him at least $2.5M more than what was originally planned. In eleven years, the salary cap will be bigger, so don’t worry about it.

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