Kovalchuk's latest deal, Fehr's new position, Olympic news and more
Ilya Kovalchuk's new $100 million contract should satisfy the NHL office
Donald Fehr's rise to NHLPA executive director doesn't mean another lockout
Paul Kariya's post-concussion syndrome raises questions about Blues' doctors
News: The New Jersey Devils submitted a revised contract with Ilya Kovalchuk to the league for approval.
Views: By rejecting that last, farcical deal, the NHL made its point: enough with the cap-skirting contracts that load too much of the cash up front and eliminate cap consequences on the back end. Now the league has five days to approve the revamped deal that was submitted by the team on Friday. It wouldn't be a stunner if the league dragged it out until the dying hours, but it's expected they'll eventually sign off on the contract and let the two sides get what they have coming to them.
The important numbers in this new agreement -- reportedly 15 years for $100 million -- aren't significantly different than those in the 17-year, $102 million deal that was vetoed by the league earlier this month. What has changed, according to multiple sources, is the structure, with the final years being reworked to place more of a financial burden on the team in the closing seasons. It will also bump up the cap hit to $6.66 million per year. Not sure if that makes Kovalchuk the Beast, but it should be enough to satisfy the vetters and ensure he's wearing the Devils colors next season.
Ultimately though, this is all about setting a precedent for next summer when premier players like Joe Thornton, Zdeno Chara, Alex Semin and Ilya Bryzgalov could enter the market. Keep both hands on the table, boys, and don't try anything funny.
News: The NHLPA appears close to naming Donald Fehr as its new Executive Director.
Views: The image of the former head of the Major League Baseball's Players Association with his finger on hockey's nuclear button has pushed plenty of fans into panic mode, but there's no need to re-stock the bomb shelter just yet. We may not see a serious skirmish when the current labor agreement ends on Sept. 15, 2012, let alone Armageddon.
Granted, Fehr's reputation speaks for itself. He's a tough, canny negotiator who instigated a few battles, and won more than he lost, while serving in his previous position. And no doubt he's a different breed than Paul Kelly, a lifelong hockey man who always had the good of the game on his radar.
But when he ultimately is voted into office by the union's 30 player reps, it's a good bet that his primary focus won't be on blowing up the current CBA at any cost. Instead, he'll be tasked with building cohesion, to make the union into a collective force in something other than name only. And a strong union is exactly what fans should be hoping for going into the next round of talks.
It's simple physics, folks. The last time around, the league sensed it was battling a divided opponent and used the leverage it had -- a lockout -- to break the union and essentially get everything it wanted in the new CBA. This time around, a stronger union would ensure more equal footing in the tug o' war. Both sides have issues with the current agreement, but there doesn't appear to be anything on the horizon that either would be willing to risk another work stoppage over. And while negotiations would be more strenuous, the respect that both sides would command would lead to a more moderate end result.
Despite his rep, Fehr never pursued chaos for grins. He's always acted in the best interest of his players. No reason to expect anything different from him now.
News: Toronto GM Brian Burke, at the World Hockey Summit, reiterates his position that non-compensation of players is a serious issue that could undermine the NHL's involvement in the 2014 Winter Games.
Views: As soon as Sidney Crosby, Ryan Miller, Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom or any other significant star steps up and demands a fatter wallet for donning his national colors in Sochi, then you can consider the pay-for-play angle to be a serious hurdle heading into the Olympics. Until that happens though, recognize this for what it is: a baseless talking point the owners will trot out as often as possible as they try to build up participation in the Games as a bargaining point for the next CBA talks.
News: Paul Kariya's agent announces the left winger will sit out 2010-11 season.
Views: Wait ... what? Post-concussion syndrome? Sure, Kariya missed six games midseason after taking a brutal hit from Buffalo's Patrick Kaleta, but he returned to finish out the year with the Blues. Stunning then to learn this now, at a time when he was thought to be choosing between joining Teemu Selanne in Anaheim or Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh.
In hindsight then, his return to action in January has to be considered a brave, if not very smart move. It also raises some serious questions about how he was handled by the St. Louis medical staff. Could be that there was a follow-up incident later in the season that he fought through in silence, but it has to be asked if he was cleared for return before he was truly ready. Considering his problems with concussions in the past (remember the Gary Suter hit that kept him out of the 1998 Olympics?), it's hard to imagine giving him the green flag without a longer convalescence.
The press release issued Friday through the PA didn't mention the R word, but when you consider the reason for his forced absence and his advanced age (35), it's hard to avoid the conclusion that we may have seen the last of the spectacularly talented winger. No doubt he can still play -- his numbers were down, but he still scored 18 goals last year for the Blues -- but it's hard to imagine a team risking a post-35 contract on a player who could be sidelined indefinitely by a hard sneeze.
Favorite Kariya memory? How about two. His finish of the Chris Pronger pass that Mario Lemieux intentionally whiffed on in the 2002 Olympic gold medal game against the Americans showcased his tremendous hands. But maybe more germane to his success as an undersized forward was his competitive drive. When you think of that side of Kariya, it's hard not to focus on the devastating Scott Stevens hit that knocked him out cold in the 2003 Finals, and his dramatic return later in that contest to score a spectacular goal.
Too early to start reminiscing? Let's hope so. But more than that, let's hope Kariya simply gets back to feeling normal again.
News: Edmonton Oilers goalie Nikolai Khabibulin is found guilty in an Arizona court of three charges related to a 2009 drunk driving incident
Views: Not a surprising verdict considering the excessive speed that led to the traffic stop and his blood alcohol level when the police tested him. Now it's a matter of sentencing -- that will be handed down on Tuesday -- and the team's reaction.
Oilers' GM Steve Tambellini prepared wisely by signing Martin Gerber over the summer, but the team is hoping he won't spend significant time backing up Jeff Deslauriers. The expectation is that Khabibulin should be back in action before long. He won't avoid the minimum sentence of 30 days in jail -- a term that, if started immediately, would see him back in action before the regular season started -- but it would be surprising if the punishment was much more severe. It would also be a shock if the Oilers utilized the morals clause to invalidate the remaining three years and $12 million owed on a contract he signed last summer -- even if it is a contract some feel the team would be more than happy to shed. The likelihood of facing an NHLPA grievance, and the possibility of losing, makes that an untenable course of action.
The one true wild card is how a conviction might impact Khabibulin's ability to cross the border to work. And that's where the Gerber insurance policy might have to pay off.
No matter how harsh the sentence when is when it's handed down Tuesday, Khabibulin should take a moment to be grateful for how easily he got off. The end result of getting behind the wheel drunk could have been a lot worse. Just ask Dany Heatley.
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