It's finally done. It only took two months, two contracts, and two drawn-out debates between the NHL and NHLPA for the biggest free agent to his the market to have a team...and it's still the same team that he ended the 2009-10 campaign with. However, even though Ilya Kovalchuk will remain a Devil; the biggest news could be the end of these kind of contracts that lead to questions about circumvention....we think.
If you're to listen to the likes of Darren Dreger, the deal Kovalchuk got and deals like Roberto Luongo, Marc Savard, and Marian Hossa has (where it's a long-term deal with declining salary in the latter years) will be the last of their kind. Whether or not you take that as a reassuring bit of news or not is up to your own discretion. People will always make a fuss about any kind of long-term deal, actually.
It all started with the Rick DiPietro contract right after the lockout. It had nothing to do with the money at first, it was the absurdity of a 15-year deal for a goalie who hadn't proven much in his few years in the league leading up to that point. It's compounded now that DiPietro's injury history has been the downfall of that contract. After that, you saw the same long-term deals given more often to players after their entry level contract was up. The likes of Mike Richards, Alex Ovechkin, Henrik Zetterberg, Duncan Keith, and Nicklas Backstrom got long-term, high money deals after their first deal-- though Backstrom and Ovechkin are the only two who has their contract money raised later into the deal, but still-- it seems the long-term contract is the way to go.
However, is it the best way?? With all of those deals over 10-years, who knows what the future actually holds. I mean, it's one thing to give the money out that freely for the term, but to actually predict what could happen in year seven or eight of the deal is insane. While it could turn out to be a great deal should the player keep up the pace they've set for themselves, it could also be disappointing should they not be able to produce in the years they are actually getting the big money, right Daniel Briere?? Then, you have the side of the player being disappointed in his latter years when he's actually doing well and only making a million bucks; but he could also slack off during those years since he already got the bulk of his money. It's a crapshoot, for sure-- but aren't all contracts.
The next debate about contracts will probably be the ability to restructure the contract of a player during their tenure. Especially with these long-term deals becoming more and more prominent, the idea is definitely one that should be taken a look at. Give it an option where during a contract term, the team can open it up once and the player can open it up once; but it can only happen after the second year of the term has been complete it. It is another way for owners to be saved from themselves, but maybe it's something where they can actually be smarter and maybe player agents will be smarter and putting out a smaller term with a same cap-hit, but giving their player options after that deal and giving them more bargaining power when the contract is up because their player can actually get a new deal later for a decent amount of money.
These are all some crazy ideas for the sake of crazy ideas. In the end, it may not as crazy as once though, but time will only tell how this will happen. As far as we know now, this will not happen again, hopefully. That's not to say we won't have someone a few years down the road try this same stunt with the new CBA being in effect; because odds are we will have someone test the boundaries off the hop to see how strong the NHL will stand. Even so, if the NHL is doing this with a high-profile player like Kovalchuk and an ally like Lou Lamoriello; odds are the message has been received loud and clear to teams about trying to make a deal like this again.