Arbitrator Richard Bloch's ruling to side with the NHL on voiding Ilya Kovalchuk's contract on Monday could affect other such front-ended hockey contracts.
Canucks general manager Mike Gillis confirmed to the Vancouver Sun via email late Monday night that the league is still looking into Roberto Luongo's 12-year contract that was signed last fall.
"We have complied with the NHL request for information and are awaiting further instructions," Gillis told The Sun. "Cannot say anything further at this point."
Reports back in September indicated that the league was checking into the contracts of Luongo, Philadelphia Flyers defenceman Chris Pronger, Boston Bruins forward Marc Savard and Chicago Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa. Bloch's ruling specifically mentioned that the league is still investigating those deals.
"We are cooperating fully with the League in its investigation of the Marc Savard contract extension," Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli said in a statement released on Tuesday. The League informed us upon their registration of the contract on December 1, 2009 that they would be investigating the circumstances surrounding this contract.
"From that point on, they commenced their investigation and it has been ongoing since then. On August 4th, I met with two League appointed lawyers as part of the investigation. We will continue to cooperate with the League in any future investigative proceedings if necessary and we will have no further comment on the matter at this time."
Luongo agreed to a 12-year, $64 million contract that paid him $10 million last season, with a salary cap of $5.33 million with the Canucks. He has an out-clause after five years and the team has one after seven years.
Hossa has a 12-year contract with Chicago for $62.8 million, while Pronger signed a seven-year extension for $34.5 million last summer.
"Each of these players will be 40 or over at the end of the contract term and each contract includes dramatic divebacks," Bloch wrote in his ruling. "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 nine 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 NHL Players' Association argued that those four deals were approved and that Kovalchuk's deal should be approved as well.
Bloch disagreed with that point, writing:
"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 [standard player's contracts] are being investigated currently with at least the possibility of a subsequent withdrawal of the registration."
Pronger, Luongo, Hossa and Savard are among a long list of players who have signed long-term deals that included extra years with diminished salary.