Agent says NHL investigations into long-term deals a prelude to restrictions in new CBA
The agent for Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier said the NHL's investigation into whether some long-term contracts were written to circumvent the salary cap might lead to restrictions on contracts being incorporated into the next collective bargaining agreement.
Kent Hughes said he could see the league pushing for restrictions on contract lengths and even values, and pointed out there already are such restrictions on entry-level contracts.
"Whatever the parameters are going to be, it would be nice to know the parameters so you don't negotiate in the dark," Hughes said.
The issue is bubbling because of the league's rejection, supported by an arbitrator, of the Devils' 17-year, $102 million contract with star wing Ilya Kovalchuk. Front-loaded, with $98.5 million in salary delivered in the first 11 years (substantially lowering the cap hit while assuming Kovalchuk will play until he is 44 years old), the league and arbitrator ruled the contract was written to circumvent the salary cap. While there is nothing in the CBA to specifically prevent it, the league and arbitrator believe the spirit of the CBA, which is to level the financial playing field for all teams, was ignored.
Which is why Hughes said, the league might push for more specific, and restrictive.
"What these types of deals do is provide a competitive edge for the big market clubs, the teams that can spend money," Hughes said. "It's really a competitive-equality angle that should be motivating the league."
The league also is looking into long-term, cap-friendly deals signed by Chicago's Marian Hossa, Philadelphia's Chris Pronger, Boston's Marc Savard and Vancouver's Roberto Luongo. The league said it has "no issue" with Lecavalier's 11-year, $85 million contract extension, presumably because the drop-off in salary over the term of the contract is not as extreme as in other contracts and for not nearly as long.
Those investigations, and that the current CBA has just two more years until it expires on Sept. 15, 2012, might make it tougher, in the short run, to fashion a long-term deals, Hughes said: "Players who could go out and command a long-term deal, those players who hit the market before the CBA expires, those deals will be heavily scrutinized."
One who does not have to worry is Lightning star Steven Stamkos, who is entering the final season of his three-year, entry-level deal. Only 21 years old, it is a given his annual salary will be going up, not down, over the course of his next contract. As his agent Mark Guy said of the questions surrounding long-term deals, "I don't really think it has any bearing on it. That situation is more reserved for older players, guys who have retirement contracts, as the arbitrator said. That's more for guys who are going into their 40s. Steven is still so young, I don't think it has any bearing on what we do with him."
Speaking of a possible contract extension for Stamkos, Guy said he and Lightning GM Steve Yzerman only have had "discussions about having discussions."