In reading James Mirtle's article on Arbitrator Richard Bloch's ruling in favor of the NHL against the NHLPA and Ilya Kovalchuk, something stuck out to me:
Bloch also noted that several other long-term contracts are under investigation for circumvention, listing deals given to Vancouver Canucks netminder Roberto Luongo, Boston Bruins centre Marc Savard, Philadelphia Flyers defenceman Chris Pronger and Chicago Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa as raising similar red flags to Kovalchuk’s rejected contract.
The Arbitrator in this case was hired to rule solely on Kovalchuk. So then why is he commenting on other contracts? What you are about to read is simply my logical resoning of why. Note I have no inside information and this is all purely speculative.
Going before the arbitrator, each side is going to present its case. The NHL would presumably argue that the contract violates the spirit of the CBA. The NHLPA's response would be to point out other contracts approved by the NHL as precedent setting. The burden would then be on the NHL to prove that the Kovalchuk contract is somehow worse than the other deals. Instead of doing this it seems the NHL instead decided to argue that those contracts are under investigation too. While the media hoopla will be around the idea that other contracts could be nullified, the real travesty here is that the arbitrator ruled NOT on the precedent set by the NHL, but instead on what that they said they will do. I can see no other reason he would bring up other contracts in his decision. That is like a guy getting busted for drugs telling the judge he planned to get clean the next week and the judge letting him go free. The arbitrator should rule solely on the case at hand with the precedents set, not on what the NHL might do in the future. And in this case I believe he not only made the wrong decision, but made it for the wrong reasons.