If nothing else, we can all be grateful. There's certainly a lot of hockey news for an August, thanks in no small part to the Kovi-Go-Round (right round, baby, right round).
Puck Daddy has been tracking the ponies as they run. This post from a couple of days ago is a good place to get started, as it also has links within it to a lot of commentary as well as the actual Arbitrator's decision. Robert Bloch's ruling seems to open the door to re-consider some of the other egregious long-term deals, especially those for Marian Hossa, Roberto Luongo, Chris Pronger, and Marc Savard, but PD picks up on a key distinction:
The notion that the NHL would double back and invalidate the Hossa deal seems farfetched because he's one year into it; not so Luongo, Savard and Pronger, whose extensions all begin next season.
(Perhaps the Detroit Red Wings should be thankful both Johan Franzen's(notes) 11-year deal and Henrik Zetterberg's(notes) 12-year deal are one season old. Ditto the Calgary Flames, who won't have to answer for the $3.5 million salary drop for Miikka Kiprusoff(notes) from 2012-2014.)
I can't say I'm fond of taking any valid contract and going back after the fact to suddenly scrap it. That's a recipe for chaos, and it's not fair to the member clubs or players. And at this point, I can hear Mr. McVeigh calling to me all the way from sophomore history class, about the power of courts to uphold the provisions of valid private contracts, absent fraud or deception. Neither the NHL nor the Player's Association really would care to see it go that far. It's one thing for Bloch to use a pre-agreed process to rule that Kovalchuk's aborted contract, in total, had the effect of circumventing the CBA; quite another for the League to prove to a civil court standard that similar deals with prior approval, and with no individual term violating the CBA, nonetheless violate the CBA on purpose. I mean, why shouldn't Luongo keep playing? Dwayne Roloson is playing well at 40 and is coming back; Ed Belfour played credibly in the NHL until he was 42, Dominik Hasek until 43 (and Hasek's still tending the nets back home).
Nor do I think they have a leg to stand on regarding Chris Pronger: he signed his extension after he turned 35, so the Flyers are on the hook for his cap hit no matter what he does.
That leaves Boston and Savard, and this follow-up post from PD yesterday:
According to the collective bargaining agreement, here's the skinny on de-registering a standard player contract from Section 11.6 (assuming this is the applicable section):
(b) Subsequent Challenge and/or De-Registration of SPCs.
Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in this Section 11.6, an approved and registered SPC may be subject to subsequent challenge and/or de-registration by the League: (i) in the case of a Circumvention relating to either the Club Upper Limit or the Maximum Player Salary, within sixty (60) days from the date upon which the facts of the Circumvention became known or reasonably should have been known to the NHL, or (ii) in the case of a challenge pursuant to (i) or (ii) below, within fourteen (14) days from the date upon which the SPC was approved by the NHL.
... My layman's question on the first part: Can the NHL argue that "the date upon which the facts of the Circumvention became known or reasonably should have been known" was when Richard Bloch upheld the Kovalchuk deal as having circumvented the salary cap and violated the CBA?
Since the League made no secret behind the scenes about how concerned they were getting about these front-loaded deals, I'd say "no way." All an aggrieved team needs to do is show a judge whatever memos and emails Bettman's staff fired off to them when the contracts were extended. The argument they may TRY to make before an arbitrator is that the clock doesn't start ticking until the extension actually takes effect, since the player is still technically under the previous contract until then. That strikes me as a bowl of weaksauce.
The Isles know better. There's that giddy in-love phase after you talk yourself into moving in with someone, and then you find out all the bad habits, all the stuff that annoys you even though you know you should let it go, the things your friends tried to warn you about for months, the disillusionment and ennui... The last thing the Isles want is to see how the Mets handle their business, when they could have just listened to any of us Met fans (and a lot of the Yankee and Phillie fans, too) - and stayed the hell away. The Mets leave the bed unmade, their idea of a romantic date is watching "Love, Actually" trailers in HD at the sports bar, and they never shave when company comes over.
That's all before you get to the in-laws:
Could Fred Wilpon have come off less interested in the Islanders-to-Queens story when he was asked about it last week? There was one obvious PR clue: he couldn’t even bring himself to mention Charles Wang - a man of stature in business and sports in New York - by name. It’s up to "the owner" and what "he" wants to do. Said that a few times. Pretty dismissive.
The Isles would be wise to avoid the taint of being linked in any way to that outfit. The Mets are, frankly, a terrible team right now. Omar Minaya may not be quite in Mad Mike territory, but the team is a shambles - no credible second baseman, stop-gap catching, zero power from the corner outfielders, eleven fourth starters... Wilpon can barely be bothered to pay attention to his own franchise, it hardly suprises me that he knows next to nothing about the Islanders. He probably thought Tavares was that night's new starter instead of just throwing out the first pitch. Now get off my infield, you brats.
Also resurfacing yesterday, Sir Justin Bourne, noted scion of his father Robert, the Earl of Bourne. The several readers here (like myself) who play hockey in some form or fashion will especially appreciate the Dale Hawerchuk anecdote. Another thing you may enjoy is Hockey Prime Time, the link for which I have boosted from Sir Justin's sidebar. They're running some nice
time-wasters uh, features... when all else fails in the writing business, you know, it's time for a list!
Another regular stop in my corner of blogworld - Hockey or Die, chiming in with a priceless photoshop of Gary Bettman in a 2012 movie poster; but they also had a piece from contributor Scott Lewis on RFA's signing (or not) in the wake of arbitration, featuring our very own Matt
Moulton Colson Moulson.
Just the day before Lewis' post was a good one at Puck Prospectus about Kirill Kabanov. Those of us drooling over the prospects of this prospect will be encouraged by Corey Pronman's analysis of why he slid so far in the Draft, and the likelihood of his making everybody else unhappy at passing him up. I will only add that I think Garth Snow is thinking along these lines, not only about Kabanov but also Kirill Petrov and Nino Niederreiter... obviously, duh, he drafted them, but moreover, it's what he did NOT do after doubling down on Kirills - he did NOT sign Alexander Frolov, Lee Stempniak, or do more than kick the tires on Ilya Kovalchuk. Then, they signed Matty Ice to a one-year deal. All that reads as GMGS keeping his options open.
If even one of those three guys hits it big, they have the first-line scoring wing they've longed for since Ziggy Palffy went west; in that case, they would be blocked by Kovalchuk or Frolov, who would probably not go anywhere based on the kinds of contracts they would command from the Islanders - money needed to keep JT, KO, Hamonic, et als in the chips. A guy like Moulson, on the other hand, can slide happily down to the second line, for second line money, rather than tie up first-line money long-term. If he doesn't like that, he and the Isles part ways with no hard feelings and the Isles explore other options.