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NHL says it has "no issue" with Vinny Lecavalier's 11-year contract extension



This is a tough environment for teams that want to lock their star players into long-term contracts.

Surely, by now, you have heard of an arbitrator's ruling that Ilya Kovalchuk's 17-year, $102 million contract with the Devils should be rejected because it was constructed to circumvent the salary cap rules in the collective bargaining agreement. The ruling also revealed the league is looking into long-term contracts signed by Chicago's Marian Hossa, Vancouver's Roberto Luongo, Philadelphia's Chris Pronger and Boston's Marc Savard.

Some have wondered if Vinny Lecavalier's 11-year, $85 million contract extension should be scrutinized as well. But NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly wrote in an e-mail Tuesday that the league has "no issue with (Lecavalier's) contract."

Daly did not elaborate, but we can figure out some of the differences.

First, some background. Deals such as Kovalchuk's are intended to get the player the money he feels he deserves. But by adding years, the salary cap hit, which is the player's yearly average salary, is reduced. Under Kovalchuk's deal, the salary cap hit would have been $6 million, a bargain, while for a five-year period, he would have made $11.5 million a season. The red flag was $98.5 million coming in the first 11 years of the deal and $3.5 million over the final six, including $550,000 in each of the last five.

What makes the Lightning captain's contract different?

Lecavalier's deal also is front-loaded, but the reduction in salary is not nearly as dramatic and for not nearly as long. Lecavalier, whose cap hit is $7.727 million, makes $10 million the first seven years, $8.5 million in the eighth, $4 million in the ninth, $1.5 million in the 10th and $1 million in the 11th. If he plays out the contract, he will be 39 years old when the 2019-2020 regular-season ends. Kovalchuk would be 44 if he played to the end of his deal. Not that it can't happen, but the arbitrator noted that only six of 3,400 players during the past 20 years have played to 42.

In other words, Lecavalier's deal, while reducing the cap hit, does not go to extremes. Lecavalier also has played one year under the deal, which means it would be more difficult for the league to revisit the circumstances. That is the problem the NHL may run into with Hossa's 12-year, $62.8 million deal that kicked in last season, pays $7.9 million annually the first seven years, has a cap hit of $5.23 million and pays $3.5 million total the last four years.

Luongo's 12-year, $64 million deal that begins next season, seems a bigger target. The Canucks goaltender will be 43 when the contract ends in 2021-22. He will be paid $10 million next season. His cap hit is $5.33 million.

Savard's seven-year, $28 million deal pays $25.5 million the first four years and has a $4 million cap hit. Pronger's seven-year, $34.45 million deal doesn't pay less than $7 million in its first four seasons. The cap hit is $4.9 million. He will be 42 when it ends in 2016-17. 

What is interesting is how this will affect contracts going forward. The Lightning has a big one it wants to get done with Steven Stamkos, though Stamkos is so young, it is doubtful his next contract would be his last and include reduced salaries to reflect the end of a career. 

[Last modified: Friday, September 10, 2010 12:15am]


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