A few posts ago, I rambled my way through trying to figure out what the hell happened last week with the Kokvalchuk 2.0 pre-approval process (or lack thereof). We still don't know if it's true or not that the league didn't pre-approve this deal or if they did or didn't previously nix other NJ frameworks because of a 15 year term.
Having had a weekend to think about it, I want to take a stab at a simpler prediction tree:
- 1 - the league never said they wouldn't do 15 years, and/or they did in fact pre-approve 15 years. If this turns out to be the case, I think the league approves the contract and we all get on with our lives of fretting over a possible Jack Penner for Dustin Johnson deal.
- 2 - the league said they wouldn't approve 15 years, rejected a previous 15 year framework, and/or strongly implied that 15 years didn't work for them. If this is the case, I think this:
The league will reject the contract. New Jersey knows they will reject the contract. They welcome it. Because they think they can prevail in arbitration.
And I'll even throw in a bonus prediction. If what I just described occurs, the NHLPA will win arbitration 2.0. Why? Because they will argue that they addressed every issue raised by arbitration 1.0, got rid of the NMC language, corrected the weak-ass tail, and even reduced the term to conform to the age limit of Hossa and Luongo.
The counter-argument from the league will be, "but those contracts are still under investigation." And the NHLPA's counter would be:
"So given this contract is no worse than those contracts and is in some ways better, and is exponentially much better than Kovalchuk 1.0, SPC 2.0 deserves at least as much leeway as the Hossa and Luongo deals. After all, those contracts occurred without precedent, while IK 2.0 has their example to look to, and -- most importantly -- conforms to every guideline established by the first arbitration.
In other words, if you think this contract is (merely) just as potentially problematic as Hossa, then it should get the same treatment as Hossa: approval, followed by stern warning memo and prolonged amorphous investigation."
That's what I would say anyway.
They would essentially be gambling that the second arbitrator (oh, this is all fairly dependent on the interpretation of Bloch's decision that he was appointed for that case only, so there would be a new person for the new hearing) would agree that they did what was asked and that open-ended investigations, used to deter behavior that otherwise would be allowed, fundamentally abuses the authority granted the league by the CBA (that's another subordinate argument I think the NHLPA could make pretty persuasively).
The Devils, by essentially forcing the league to reject the second contract, would be reducing the whole decision down to Hossa. Is 42 the line? Is Hossa a circumvention? There are so many reasons the league wants to avoid going down that road. And it's perfectly reasonable to conclude that if the correct decision on Hossa was to approve and investigate, then Kovalchuk ought to be given the same treatment.
Of course, the alternative is that the correct decision in Hossa was to reject. In which case, the league should kill it now. Until they're willing to do that (as long as the investigation is still open), I think their previous definitive action -- approval -- stands.