Today's NHL is no longer merely about the dollars, but how you massage those numbers into a contract.
First there's the dollar figure. Most would agree that Ilya Kovalchuk is worth about $8 million a year. Teams may argue slightly less, while Kovalchuk will say more, but for arguments sake, lets say that's the number.
Now comes the difficult part. How do you pay him $8 million a season and not show that on the books?
The answer from a team's perspective is to front-end load a contract. Case in point, Marian Hossa. He signed a 12-year deal, paying him just under $8 million a season for the first seven years, and then it plummets to a paltry $750,000 in the final two seasons. The bottom line? A very manageable $5.2 million dollar cap hit and the club can still manage to build a team around him.
It works for Hossa because he'll be in his 40's at the tail-end of his deal, however Kovalchuk is only 27-years old. He'll argue that in the final years of his contract, he'll still be a major contributor, so he wants as much in years seven through 10 as years one through six. 10 years at the same dollar figure across the board.
While the Devils aren't offering that, there is the compromise of a shorter term. Kovalchuk gets his money, the Devils swallow the cap hit, but for seven and not 10 years, and if Kovalchuk is still producing like he feels he can, he can sign a new deal at 34 and everyone is happy. Everone that is, except for the casualties.
You see even with this compromise, the Devils will still be about $3.8 million over the cap, and that means there will have to be some bodies moved out of New Jersey to make room for Kovalchuk.