Chicago Sun-Times

Hossa's contract under a microscope ... again?

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hossaa.jpgJust over a year ago, reports emerged that the NHL was investigating Marian Hossa's 12-year, $62.8 million contract with the Blackhawks despite approving it.

Now, it looks as if the NHL may not be finished looking at the deal.

A footnote in arbitrator Richard Bloch's ruling on Ilya Kovalchuk's grievance -- which upheld the NHL's decision to reject Kovalchuk's 17-year, $102 million contract with the New Jersey Devils for circumventing the collective bargaining agreement -- referred to Hossa's contract with the Hawks.

The contracts of Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo, Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger and Boston Bruins center Marc Savard also were mentioned.

All four players have front-loaded deals and all four players will be in their 40's when their contracts expire, such as the Kovalchuk deal. But all four contracts were previously approved by the NHL. Kovalchuk, on the other hand, is now an unrestricted free agent.

"First, while the contracts have, in fact, been registered, their structure has not escaped League notice: those [Standard Player's Contracts] are being investigated currently with at least the possibility of a subsequent withdrawal of the registration," Bloch wrote about the four contracts.

The Hawks declined to comment and an NHL spokesman said in an email "the league is not commenting any further on this issue at this point." The Canucks and Bruins both confirmed the NHL is investigating the contracts of Luongo and Savard. (Vancouver GM Mike Gillis confirmed it with the Vancouver Sun, while Boston issued a statement.)

Last summer, Luongo signed a 12-year, $64 million contract extension and Pronger agreed to seven-year, $35 million extension. The Bruins and Savard agreed on a seven-year, $28 million extension in December.

Hossa, though, is the only player of the four to play under the contract referred to in Bloch's ruling. The other three are set to start this coming season. According to reports, Savard's and Pronger's contracts were previously investigated like Hossa's.

While Bloch's ruling indicated neither the Devils nor Kovalchuk operated in bad faith and both parties believed the contract complied with the CBA, Bloch concluded Monday that the agreement "has the effect of defeating" the provisions of the CBA.

There are penalties if found guilty of circumventing the CBA, including fines, the loss of draft picks and the forfeiture of games.

To learn more about the the NHL's CBA, click HERE.

Here is the full footnote:

It is true, as the Association observes, that the NHL has registered contracts with structures similar to the Kovalchuk SPC PA Exh. 8 reflects a list of 11 multi-year agreements, all of which involve players in their mid to late 30's and early 40's. Most of them reflect reasonably substantial "diveback" (salary reductions that extend over the "tails" of the Agreement). Of these,four such agreements, with players Chris Pronger, Marc Savard, Roberto Luongo, and Marian Hossa reflect provisions that are relatively more dramatic than the others. Each of these players will be 40 or over at the end of the contract term and each contract includes dramatic divebacks. Pronger's annual salary, for example, drops from $4,000,000 to $525,000 at the point he is earning almost 97% of the total $34,450,000 salary. Roberto Luongo, with Vancouver, has a 12- year agreement that will end when he is 43. After averaging some $7,000,000 per year for the first 9 years of the Agreement, Luongo will receive an average of about 1.2 million during his last 3 years, amounting to some 5.7% of the total compensation during that time period. The apparent purpose of this evidence is to suggest that the League's concern is late blooming and/or inconsistent. Several responses are in order: First, while the contracts have, in fact, been registered, their structure has not escaped League notice: those SPCs are being investigated currently with at least the possibility of a subsequent withdrawal of the registration. It is also the case that the figures in Kovalchuk's case are demonstrably more dramatic, including a 17-year term length, a $102,000,000 salary total and precipitous drop that lasts for the final six years of this contract.

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Adam L. Jahns is a native Chicagoan hailing from the Far Northwest Side. Jahns has been with the Sun-Times for more than four years, covering the Hawks, Bears, Cubs, Sox and high schools.

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