The Iyla Kovalchuk free agency saga has finally come to a close [finally!]. He signed a ridiculous 17 year deal worth $102 million dollars, not nearly as much as Ovechkin's $124 million dollar deal, but he will be paid $11.5 million dollars for five consecutive seasons, making him easily the top paid player in the game.
The final six years of Kovalchuk's contract will pay him a total of $4.05 million dollars, significantly lowering his cap hit. He is set to make $97.95 million in the first eleven years, which would represent a cap hit of $8.9 million dollars. However, adding in the final six years, and his cap hit is lowered dramatically to $6 million, almost a $3 million dollar difference.
What does this mean? The Devils have a $9 million dollar athlete, and they are paying him accordingly, but they are only losing $6 million against the cap. They are circumventing the rules, and the league is allowing it. And we thought Zetterberg's and Franzen's deals were ridiculous.
The salary cap was instituted to provide parity, something I disagree with for reasons that will be discussed soon, but this is a blatant violation of this idea. The New York Rangers, for example, are owned by Cablevision, a multi-billion dollar company, worth $9.383 billion dollars. The Nashville Predators, by comparison, are not owned by the fifth largest cable provider in the US. So, the Rangers can afford to take the risk of paying an athlete an obscene amount of money over a long term deal, such as Kovalchuk's, and dumbing it down with a few years of pittance. Whereas a small market team like Nashville cannot afford to do so. Even if a smaller team can afford to pay a guy like Kovalchuk an average of $6 million dollars per year, they cannot afford to pay him a whopping $11.5 million per year for years 3-7. So there is never going to be any competition between a big market team and a little one, much like the pre-lockout days.
Kovalchuk will, for five years, receive more than Jagr made in the deal that caused the lockout.
This deal will cause a huge backlash. We saw a little bit of foreshadowing with a few of the "lifetime deals", like Keith, DiPietro, Hossa, and Ovechkin, but nothing like what we will be seeing when the CBA expires next summer.
Kovalchuk is without a doubt a phenomenal player, but will never be discussed as the best player in the league, even at his position. He is a perennial all-star, and will probably be a Hall of Famer when he retires, but is he even worth this kind of money? Maybe; we have not seen a UFA of his caliber in as long as I can remember. So Kovalchuk is now the precedent, and we will see some more ridiculous deals to follow, whether it be Doughty getting a deal that trumps Keith's, or if good but not great players like Semin getting paid more than Crosby or Malkin.
Kovalchuk has shown the world that he is all about the melodrama. This whole hostage situation was very "un-hockey" of him. He is acting more like an NBA player than an NHLer. You have a history of players like Sakic and Yzerman deflecting praise for their whole careers (and they both had been there and done that, unlike Mr. Kovy). Now Kovalchuk follows in LeBron James' footsteps. Wrong path, Comrade.
But it made headlines at least, right? I saw a hockey player not named Crosby or Ovechkin on Sportscenter, even if it was in the 25th minute.