Sunday, September 5, 2010

On that Kovalchuk contract and those of its ilk

Ilya Kovalchuk's monster contract finally was approved by the NHL.  Guess it means that we can get on with the preseason, eh?

I'm not going to address the personalities or teams involved in the contract, nor the NHL-NHLPA drama that apparently was playing out behind the scenes.  Instead, I'm going to take a macro view of the situation.  As such, I have two overarching thoughts:

1. Following in line with my Rick Nash preseason "Time to step up" profile, I am dubious that any player can be worth the amount of space that Nash or Kovalchuk (or Alexander Ovechkin, or any other "superstar") are taking up under their team's salary cap - even at their pro-rated levels.  I really don't think that any player can reasonably be expected to provide a proportional level of value inherent in the salary cap numbers that these guys are carrying.  Holders of these mega-contracts now should be expected to be captain, top scorer on their team, have a plus-minus rating higher than +30 and personally sell more season tickets than any full-time season ticket rep.  All while driving the zamboni in between periods and winning at least 4 Stanley Cups over the course of their contracts.  (I'm only half-joking.)

2. The NHL and NHLPA were wise to functionally cap the length of contracts.  Professional athletes, in a profession where they're lucky to last four years on average, should not be on the books until they're 40.  It's stupid and short-sighted on the part of the teams (Hi, New York Islanders.  How are Alexi Yashin and Rick DiPietro?).  Fortunately, the parties agreed to fix that right now rather than wait for the next lockout collective bargaining agreement negotiation.

As the slowdown (contraction?) in the American economy continues with no end in sight, and as the fiscal pressures keep building on every professional sports league to keep revenue streams flowing like they did during the boom-boom housing bubble (and Internet bubble before that), I think that these gargantuan, endless contracts represent the height of irresponsibility.  They are simply unsustainable without substantial public underwriting.

As for carving out 15% of your salary cap space for one player, well, that's just self-defeating behavior.  Good luck winning the cup with one mega-star and a bunch of AHL'ers.

This whole exercise has proven one thing: You can cap salaries, but you can't cap irrationality.

OK, got that off my chest.  Back to "Time to step up," presuming that my school-load won't slow me down too much...

1 comment:

  1. Well said! As a Devils fan, I was disappointed about the decision and am more interested in making sure the Devils retain Zach Parise. I think this contract in particular will be a bust! But, I am just a fan.....

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