The important numbers in this new agreement -- reportedly 15 years for $100 million -- aren't significantly different than those in the 17-year, $102 million deal that was vetoed by the league earlier this month. What has changed, according to multiple sources, is the structure, with the final years being reworked to place more of a financial burden on the team in the closing seasons. It will also bump up the cap hit to $6.66 million per year. Not sure if that makes Kovalchuk the Beast, but it should be enough to satisfy the vetters and ensure he's wearing the Devils colors next season.
Ultimately though, this is all about setting a precedent for next summer when premier players like
Granted, Fehr's reputation speaks for itself. He's a tough, canny negotiator who instigated a few battles, and won more than he lost, while serving in his previous position. And no doubt he's a different breed than
But when he ultimately is voted into office by the union's 30 player reps, it's a good bet that his primary focus won't be on blowing up the current CBA at any cost. Instead, he'll be tasked with building cohesion, to make the union into a collective force in something other than name only. And a strong union is exactly what fans should be hoping for going into the next round of talks.
It's simple physics, folks. The last time around, the league sensed it was battling a divided opponent and used the leverage it had -- a lockout -- to break the union and essentially get everything it wanted in the new CBA. This time around, a stronger union would ensure more equal footing in the tug o' war. Both sides have issues with the current agreement, but there doesn't appear to be anything on the horizon that either would be willing to risk another work stoppage over. And while negotiations would be more strenuous, the respect that both sides would command would lead to a more moderate end result.
Despite his rep, Fehr never pursued chaos for grins. He's always acted in the best interest of his players. No reason to expect anything different from him now.
In hindsight then, his return to action in January has to be considered a brave, if not very smart move. It also raises some serious questions about how he was handled by the St. Louis medical staff. Could be that there was a follow-up incident later in the season that he fought through in silence, but it has to be asked if he was cleared for return before he was truly ready. Considering his problems with concussions in the past (remember the
The press release issued Friday through the PA didn't mention the R word, but when you consider the reason for his forced absence and his advanced age (35), it's hard to avoid the conclusion that we may have seen the last of the spectacularly talented winger. No doubt he can still play -- his numbers were down, but he still scored 18 goals last year for the Blues -- but it's hard to imagine a team risking a post-35 contract on a player who could be sidelined indefinitely by a hard sneeze.
Favorite Kariya memory? How about two. His finish of the
Too early to start reminiscing? Let's hope so. But more than that, let's hope Kariya simply gets back to feeling normal again.
The one true wild card is how a conviction might impact Khabibulin's ability to cross the border to work. And that's where the Gerber insurance policy might have to pay off.
No matter how harsh the sentence when is when it's handed down Tuesday, Khabibulin should take a moment to be grateful for how easily he got off. The end result of getting behind the wheel drunk could have been a lot worse. Just ask