Thursday, June 30, 2011
Erhoff contract sparks controversy on eve of UFA
Last offseason, all we heard for two months was how dare the Devils violate the 'spirit' of the CBA by violating rules that by and large didn't exist. About the only thing you could question the legality of the first contract we offered Ilya Kovalchuk was the minimum salary on the back end, which was (because of inflation) lower than the current minimum salary...but that wasn't why that deal was overturned. Because apparently when every other team in the league skirts the rules they get let off but when we do it, we get thrown in jail. And our second Kovalchuk contract followed the guidelines set by arbitrator Richard Bloch and yet the league still was going to bounce it unless they got concessions from the NHLPA at the point of a gun. Concessions that were in theory supposed to curb the longer, too cap-friendly contract.
Why bring this up again now? On the eve of this year's UFA frenzy the Sabres caused a stir by signing defenseman Christian Erhoff to a ten-year, $40 million deal. Yes, that's a lot of years but the cap hit's low...but what really makes this deal roll my eyes is the structure of it (all numbers in millions):
Year 1: 10 (8 signing bonus, 2 salary)
Year 2: 8 (5 signing bonus, 3 salary)
Year 3: 4
Year 4: 4
Year 5: 4
Year 6: 4
Year 7: 3
Year 8: 1
Year 9: 1
Year 10: 1
So basically, Ehrhoff gets approximately half the value of the contract in the first two years of a ten-year deal, thanks to a $13 million signing bonus. I'm sure the Sabres didn't violate an actual rule but if the crux of the NHL's argument against us last year was that we violated the 'spirit' then why should they let the Sabres skate by? Or the Flyers, who also ridiculously front-loaded Ilya Bryzgalov's contract hours after they traded Jeff Carter, who they signed to a twelve-year deal but managed to trade him before his NTC kicked in and before they paid one penny of that deal.
Don't misunderstand me, the Sabres are the next to last team I want to see get punished by the league and I'm glad they got Ehrhoff and have an owner willing to spend. In fact, I'm in a good mood tonight and was going to let this go without a post/rant but I'm just continually astounded by the hypocrisy of this league when they literally let everyone else get away with murder and took away two high picks from us for not violating any rule on the books. I guess the only saving grace was that they didn't make us give up our first rounder this year, can you imagine what a disaster that would have been - if we missed out on Adam Larsson because of this crap?!
Besides, this Ehrhoff contract was probably a warning shot if anything. I can't wait to see some team sign Brad Richards or even offer sheet Steven Stamkos tomorrow using much the same structure to keep the cap hit down - and in Stamkos's case make it untenable to match a contract that has a ton of money up front. And when, exactly will the NHL make an example of a team other than the Devils?! I can't fathom that age on the back end of the contract is the only thing that constitutes circumvention and violating the spirit of the CBA.