• May 24, 2022

Could Kovalchuk contract rejection affect Pronger?

The 17-year, $102 million contract between free agent superstar Ilya Kovalchuk and the New Jersey Devils that was rejected by the NHL, has also been rejected by the arbitrator between the NHL and the NHLPA. While there are existing cases in the NHL that could have been used to support Kovalchuk’s contract, the overwhelming evidence of the lack of intent to fulfill the contract, as well as the effect that Kovalchuk’s contract would have on the Team Payroll provisions proved to be enough to warrant the contract null and void.

Once again, Ilya Kovalchuk is a free agent.

It’s possible that he could still bolt to the KHL or sign with another team, but it is likely that the Devils will find a way to retain his services. The NHL also has the option to impose a fine on the Flyers’ Atlantic Division rivals that will count towards the cap, but the civility that has been shown between both parties suggests that rejecting the contract will serve as punishment enough. The league doesn’t gain anything by further hurting the Devils; it just needs to save a little face in light of how poorly the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) was written.

While this helps the Flyers in terms of their Atlantic Division competition, the Kovalchuk deal has had the nasty side effect of, for lack of a better expression, not letting sleeping dogs lie. There are several contracts that have similar salary drop offs for players who turn 40, including that of Flyer defenseman Chris Pronger, that are now coming under fire thanks to the Devils. The Pronger contract, which pays him only $525,000 over the last two years of his contract, does not kick in until next season starts and may now be rejected by the NHL.

There is enough evidence based on Pronger’s performance this season as well as the shorter length of the contract to suggest that he will be able to fulfill his contract. It also does the NHL no service to have the contract flat out rejected a month before the preseason starts, and by all indications they would have let it go if it weren’t for Lou Lamiorello (or the Devil’s ownership, depending on who you talk to). There could still be a scenario where the NHL rejects the contract on the merit that it doesn’t help the Team Payroll provisions, but they would likely approve one with a marginal increase in drop off salary (limiting the increase in salary cap impact).

Either way, the sooner that the Kovalchuk issue resolves, the sooner that we all sleep better at night knowing that Chris Pronger is sticking around.

Josh Janet

Josh Janet was raised in Northern New Jersey, but by an odd set of circumstances, is a Philadelphia sports fan. While recently converted to the Phillies, Josh is a diehard Flyers fan and can be expected to stay on top of the latest NHL news.

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