1. Ilya Kovalchuck Contract Situation
A recent edition of CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada, The Hotstove, discussed the fact that Thrashers star forward Ilya Kovalchuck might make a decision in the coming weeks with regard to his contract status. Whether he will remain in the NHL or head to Russia, where it seems SKA Saint Petersburg (which is ran by KHL President Alexander Medvedev, as oddly as that sounds) are set to throw the kitchen sink at Ilya, may be known sooner rather than later. CBC’s Elliot Friedman had this to say about it:
"A number of Russian players around the league believe that if he's not in Atlanta next year, he will go back to Russia."
This, if true, would be by far the KHL’s biggest snatch and give some real credibility to the league as more than a feeder for NHL wash-ups and Radulov. However, the Thrashers are not going to stand lightly and let the KHL just take their franchise player, as Friedman puts it:
“According to sources, Atlanta is going to offer him the chance to become the NHL’s second $100 million man. (Alexander Ovechkin was the first.) Under the CBA, the maximum per-year salary he could receive is $11.36 million per season, so it would have to me a minimum nine-year deal.”
The $11.36 million comes from Article 50.6 (a) of the CBA that dictates that no player’s Average Cap Hit may exceed twenty percent of the Upper Limit of the Salary Cap. However, if under a multi-year deal, the Upper Limit restriction when calculating the twenty refers to the Upper Limit at the time of the signing. So it benefits Kovalchuck to sign an extension now, as the threat of a decreasing Upper Limit still looms.
Ilya is by far one of the best offensive players in the league. Using a stat I call Equivalent Points (EqP) defined as thus he was one of the top five offensive players in the league in 2008-09 under this metric:
Equivalent Points is a way of neutralizing the fact that multiple assists are given out on goals. The objective isn’t to discredit players who get assists, but rather for the fact that assists are easier to acquire in this scoring system than goals are because of the potential for two assists to be handed out per goal, and therefore we have to lower the value when comparing assists to goals in the points statistic.
In regular points Kovalchuck was 6th last year, while in EqP he was 5th with a spectacular 71.7 after jumping Datsyuk who was ahead of him in regular points.
It is essential that Atlanta locks him up and Ilya has expressed interest in staying as long as there is a winner here (and judging by the dollars thrown around in the discussion that too obviously), however if he gets the maximum contract he may not live up to it completely (being a top 2-3 player in the league) due to his defensive ability, but it may be necessary to keep him with a team whose PR and Marketing departments depend so heavily on him staying in Georgia. In their dark days, he was at times the only reason for fans to show up.
2. The NHLPA
Chris Chelios signed with the AHL Chicago Wolves several days ago, but has not reported yet because he has been busy trying to right the NHLPA ship. The former great attempted to have Ron Pink and Dan O’ Neill removed from the advisory board as well as Ombudsman Buzz Hargrove for their contributions to former Executive Director Paul Kelly’s dismissal. Chelios was very much against not only the Kelly firing, but by the nature of which it was conducted, which he believed was too hasty. Chelios felt he and many other players were misinformed on some issues which led to the decision, which is why last month Chelios rallied the players for a possible Kelly re-instatement vote.
The former Blackhawk feels it would be best to form a players committee to review the NHLPA's personnel, interview potential candidates and make friendly contact with the recently departed PA leadership that included Kelly and Healy. Joe Sakic, Mats Sundin, and Mike Richter were contacted, and Chelios even reached out to the likes of Brendan Shanahan and Trevor Linden to make peace from prior PA issues.
A huge issue came on the day of the vote, October 18th 2009, a Sunday when there were no games on the NHL schedule, when a conference call set to discuss this matter was set up and they failed to meet the quorum of 25 player reps. This is inexcusable with no games going on, and practices usually held in the morning. Barring a personal reason, with the NHLPA in shambles, a dark union history and the pro sports world laughing at you, there is no simply reason to not be on a critical conference call to discuss your union’s future. The NHLPA Constitution allows a 72 hour window post-conference call to submit a vote, but the fact the reps weren’t present and couldn’t hear the discussion is terribly irresponsible. The final vote on the day of the conference call was 19-3. One or two players not showing up is understandable, but nearly 33% of your voting members absent is terrible.
In the end after the votes trickled in, the committee will consist of Lidstrom, Rob Blake, Mark Recchi and Chelios after a 25-5 vote in favor of forming a review of the union passed.
3. The Coyote Situation
According to a recent report, the Coyotes bankruptcy situation seems to be at a standstill. Judge Redfield T. Baum declared earlier that the NHL’s bid along with Jim Balsillie’s was declined, but the NHL could come back and revise their bid if they wanted to. Balsille is still waiting on the bid, while the NHL is asking Baum for better details on how they should revise it, since the main issue from their bid seemed to be a lack of money going towards the previous owners Jerry Moyes and Wayne Gretzky. The most interesting development moving forward will be on how much money Baum feels is appropriate for the two men to get out of this and whether the NHL will need to add onto the bid, or if they can adjust the bid and give the other creditors less.
Ice Edge Holdings, who had originally submitted a $150 million dollar bid for the team, but pulled out, is looking to get back into the mix. However, they are intent on having a few home games per season in Canada, particularly in the Saskatoon area. Ice Edge Holdgins met with Glendale officials recently to discuss financial details. The group is waiting on the NHL to improve thier bid, so that the league may buy the team, which could allow Ice Edge Holdings to then make a formal bid to the NHL for the franchise.
4. Potential European Superleague
There was a report out of Sweden several days ago that KHL President Alexander Medvedev has come to the IIHF with a proposal for a hockey league that would expand to multiple countries. If the proposal comes to fruition, the name of the league would be United Hockey Europe.
The proposal consists of sixteen teams hailing from Finland, Sweden and the general Nordic area, with sixteen more team from Central Europe, and twenty-four from the KHL.
There are a few obvious issues with this already, with one being the finances required to set up a Euro-wide league and the huge amount of time and legwork needed to form such an entity. The next step would be to address the scheduling of the league. In Europe there are multiples breaks in the schedules already for International play, yet the proposed league would somehow consist of fifty-six teams. .
The KHL said the league would consist of two conferences and four divisions, so what kind of inter-division or conference play would there be? Most likely, just a handful of games, and if that is the case, the point of making such a huge league territorial-wise becomes slightly moot. They would need to come up with some sort of original scheduling scheme that makes it worth the Swedish teams’ time to travel to Russia as well as make fair and balanced schedules so that a team can control its own destiny in its division and conference.
The whole ploy may just be a sly way to help the KHL get out of its much publicized financial crisis and give it more credibility to form a real rivalry with the NHL. As of now, while the NHL wants a transfer agreement, they are not feeling the heat as much as the KHL is, who might in this year’s Draft lose prized possessions like Vladimir Tarasenko, Evgeny Kuznetsov and elite prospect Kirill Kabanov, who has already defected. As much as they try to poach the NHL, the NHL still easily beats them in the poaching department; this monstrous league if ran properly, would cause a true threat to the NHL if they could provide a high competition level and the finances to support it.
However, until more details leak out, it's going to prove difficult to really identify their true intents.
Corey Pronman is a contributor to Puck Prospectus and runs the statistical hockey site The Hock Project. You can contact him at CPronman@fau.edu.
Corey Pronman is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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