Wednesday, November 28, 2007

What do two Russians and Detroit have in common?

OK, so it’s spreading. Thanks to the tip at Japers’ Rink, we see that Ovechkin Flu has spread from Manhattan to Detroit…

Today’s contestant in the “Who Can Cook Up the Dopiest Ovechkin Scenario” sweepstakes is Ted Kulfan of the Detroit News. In his entry, he asks the question, “Will Ovechkin follow Hanlon out of Washington?” Of course, there should be something between the word “Washington” and the question mark, and that is…

“…to Detroit”

If there is a town that understands the pitfalls of restricted free agency and offer sheets, it is Detroit, and here is where there might be some concern for fans of the red-white-and-blue…

Let’s roll back the clock. It is the 1997-1998 season, and in Detroit there is a holdout of some note. As negotiations stalled, another team stepped up to offer Sergei Fedorov the sun, the moon, and the stars. A six-year, $38 million deal was put on the table that would have averaged $6.33 million a year. The trouble for the Red Wings was, that wasn’t how the deal was structured. The deal included a $14 million signing bonus and a second $12 million accelerated bonus that would pay off July 1 if the team made the finals. For Carolina, the chance of making the finals in 1998 was about what it is for the Caps right now – slim, to be charitable. But for the Red Wings, coming off a Stanley Cup victory, that possibility loomed rather large. 26 million front-loaded dollars if the team that signed Fedorov made the finals.

Why is that relevant to Ted Kulfan’s column and the unresolved contract status of Alexander Ovechkin? Simple…dollars and years are only a part of the equation. As we’ve seen with the contracts signed by Scott Gomez, Daniel Briere, and even Sidney Crosby, structure matters. Alex Ovechkin might command an eight-year, $80.48 million (in 2008 cap dollars) contract – the max amount (on an annual basis) permitted. But the devil is in the structure. What might make the Capitals choke on an offer sheet? It is something to think about as the days pass with no announcement of a deal.

The Wings matched that Carolina offer sheet, and they were rewarded with a Stanley Cup that year – coincidentally, defeating the Capitals in the process. But let’s not assume out of hand that the Caps are going follow history’s guide and match a “max” offer. How it is structured will go a long way toward answering that question.

But why are we asking this question? Are the Caps dawdling? Does Ovechkin have cold feet about re-upping? As long as Ovechkin’s status is unresolved, we’ll be seeing columns like this, and we’ll be seeing Caps fans get more nervous.

Is it really necessary?

edit...FYI, according to Spector, the Russian paper Sports-Express is reporting that the Capitals are about to make a contract offer to Ovechkin that would be worth $10.3 million/year. Then again, as Spector notes, "Considering this is coming from a Russian paper and the Russian sports media doesn't have a good track record with reports like this, take this report with a grain of salt." Until there is a signed dotted line, there isn't.


Anonymous said...

While a contract can still be front loaded as you point out, I believe the CBA limits how much you can do so. I'm also farily certain such clauses like winning the NHL title triggers X are prohibted.

Focality said...

This sort of gossip makes for pretty good relief of boredom, sure.

When it's a slow news day (no significant NHL trades around Thanksgiving, Flyers busted again, etc.), these guys have to write something, if only to get people gossiping.

Maybe they're sick of the Toronto mess with Maurice/Ferguson, Flyers suspensions, and whether or not Lindros belongs in the Hall of Fame.

I think they get their info from Eklund. Eklund started some garbage about Semin to Vancouver or Edmonton. It didn't catch.

The Peerless said...

I don't claim to be expert on the CBA language, but section 50.6 states that:

"For a Player signing a multi-year SPC pursuant to which he receives the Maximum Player Salary and Bonuses in any League Year during the term of such SPC, the Maximum Player Salary and Bonuses for every League Year covered by the multi-year SPC shall be based upon the Upper Limit at the time the SPC was signed."

So, if a player signs a max contract at the 2007-2008 max, the total value of the contract would be 5 x 10.06 (there being a $50.3 million cap, of which 20 percent represents the max).

Section 50.7 states the "100 percent" rule that applies to year-to-year increases in compensation over the life of the contract. That places limitations on just how much salary/benefits can rise. It does not appear as if it would apply to "max" contracts, though, since 50.6 places a limit on what players can receive in any year of a standard player contract covered under the agreement.

It does seem to place limits on any wiggle room at the top of a contract to create the kind of mischief that would cause a team to balk at matching.