In the summer of 2010, the New Jersey Devils attempted to sign Ilya Kovalchuk to a 17 year, $102 million contract. There have been many contracts similar to that within the prior few years, which had caused media outrage and other NHL clubs declaring that it is considered to be Cap Circumvention, and they will not be part of that.
Despite the NHL asking the Devils not to announce the deal until it was approved by the league, they went and did it anyways. After reviewing this contract, and after some negotiations with the NHLPA about the scenario, the league denied the contract to be legal. They deemed it to be cap circumvention and would have to re-negotiate the deal. To add insult to injury, the League also fined the New Jersey Devils $3 million dollars and took away a 3rd round pick in 2011 and a 1st round pick within the next four years (which is this year). Eventually the Devils did re-negotiate Kovalchuk’s deal to be 15 years at $100 million, but the damage had already been done.
In the ensuing years this whole situation has really cost the Devils. Kovalchuk’s impact on the club both on and off the ice had been completely ineffectual. The team had struggled on the ice, with the exception of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final run. The team has also been a consistent money loser off the ice, in a new stadium in Newark. The Devils ownership had been hoping for a boost in ticket sales with Kovalchuk’s star power, which just didn’t happen. As well, due to the cap restrictions of Kovalchuk’s contract they were not able to re-sign key free agents such as Zach Parise and David Clarkson.
In the end, Kovalchuk was not happy with the situation in New Jersey as well. This led to Kovalchuk and the Devils to mutually split ways, in which Kovalchuk retired and went back to Russia. This also meant that the Devils did not have to pay someone who wasn’t working out for them, nor could they trade (sell) to another team based on his contract.
My question is on the policy that fined the Devils in the first place? Technically they did nothing wrong under the policies set it. The club and the player agreed upon a contract in which the NHL reviewed and rejected it. The act of rejecting it shows that their system works and no further punishment would be needed. The outlook of the league looks petty now because it seems as though they were using the Devils to set an example to the rest of the league. As well, since the NHL had asked the Devils not to announce the deal and did anyways, it seems like retaliation. Not to mention the fact that the rules were changed after the completion of the deal. The NHL needs to have a clear message on what they can and can’t do prior to any issues and what the consequences are.