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июня 2004 года.
Kovalchuk's deal not what NHL bargained - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
When Ilya Kovalchuk was named a second-team all-star at the NHL awards ceremonies in Toronto on Thursday, he earned a $350,000 bonus.
While his combined salary and signing bonus for the first three seasons of his entry-level contract was limited to $3.39 million, Kovalchuk earned an estimated $14 million over the life of the deal, Thrashers general manager Don Waddell and Kovalchuk's agent said.
Kovalchuk earned $4.26 million this season, including $3.13 million in bonuses.
To Jay Grossman, Kovalchuk's representative, Kovalchuk's ability to reap more than $10 million in bonuses is proof of his uniqueness. He said the system is fair because Kovalchuk earned the large bonuses with his outstanding performance.
But as the NHL prepares to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement, leaving the start of next season uncertain, some say entry-level contracts are out of control and play a significant role in the league's many labor woes.
Waddell said he does not think Kovalchuk's last contract will make his next one difficult to negotiate this summer. But he does think something is wrong with the system.
"For us, we played three years with Ilya and we haven't made the playoffs yet, but a player is making a considerable amount of money," he said. "It should be based on team performance. It doesn't work for us."
Why, then, didn't Waddell negotiate a contract that rewarded team --- instead of individual --- performance?
"No, no chance," he said. "The model has been set for years."
The NHL thought its 1995 collective bargaining agreement was fixing the problem of awarding huge amounts of money to entry-level players who can end up as busts.
Among the worst contracts was that of Ottawa's Alexandre Daigle, who earned $12.25 million in his first four seasons after being selected first overall in 1993 but had only 67 goals to show for 263 games.
Seeking to curtail large contracts to unproven 18-year-olds, the league and NHLPA prescribed a maximum annual salary for a player tied to his draft year. (For Kovalchuk it was $1.13 million in 2001; for Dany Heatley [also a restricted free agent now\] it was $1.075 million for 2000; for Patrik Stefan it was $1.025 million in 1999.)
The CBA also included threshhold levels that players were required to achieve to earn bonuses. Forwards had to record minimums of 20 goals and 35 assists. For defensemen it was 10 goals and 25 assists.
Seemingly, the league had achieved its goal of controlling entry-level player costs. But then, as is often the case, the owners became their own worst enemy.
What was not prescribed in the collective bargaining agreement was how much teams would pay. Gradually, the bonuses starting inching up.
Joe Thornton contract
In 1997, the Boston Bruins gave No. 1 overall pick Joe Thornton what is considered a watershed contract. It has served as the model for many contracts, including Kovalchuk's. (Ironically, Thornton's deal was negotiated by agent Mike Barnett, now the general manager of the small-market Phoenix Coyotes.)
With bonuses, Thornton had the potential to earn more than $3 million per season. The Bruins had finished dead last the season before and were under pressure to turn things around.
Failing to sign Thornton could have been a public relations disaster.
"We looked at this as if there were no salary cap [restrictions]," Bruins general manager Harry Sinden said at the time. "We just came up with a figure we would pay him, cap or no cap, and said, 'We will pay you this, now you figure out what to do with it.' "
The contracts have "A" level bonuses and "B" level bonuses. In Kovalchuk's case, his A-level bonuses were capped at $8 million for the life of the contract. This season, Kovalchuk became the first player in the 10 years of the collective bargaining agreement to hit all of his A-level bonuses.
A player must play in 42 games to qualify, which eliminated Dany Heatley's chances, even if he had made the required levels, which he did not. Heatley had hit all of his A-bonuses in his first two seasons, earning a total of about $4 million per season.
Kovalchuk wins big
Kovalchuk only had to achieve two plateaus to earn the A bonuses as a rookie, and he did so by scoring 29 goals (he needed 20) and achieving .78 points per game (he needed .73) and by finishing second in the Calder Trophy (rookie of the year) balloting.
The following season he needed to qualify in three categories and did it by totaling 38 goals and 67 points (he needed 60) and by earning .83 points per game. This season, four categories were necessary, and ice time, goals, assists, points and points per game were among those that qualified him to earn the remaining $1.25 million.
B-level bonuses earned Kovalchuk $1.79 million this season. He earned $800,000 out of a possible $1 million for his 41 goals and 87 points, falling three points short of maxing out; $400,000 for finishing second in the scoring race; $350,000 for being a second-team all-star, $100,000 for playing in the All-Star Game; $160,000 for his 16 power play goals; and $70,000 for his six game-winning goals.
Kovalchuk's agent, Grossman, observes that the threshold levels players must reach to qualify for bonuses were written when scoring flourished. In the last season before the 1995 collective bargaining agreement, eight players recorded 100 points or more. In the past five seasons, only five have done so.
Grossman likened the situation to a person who once had to run around a track in a minute to be rewarded now having to do the same in half as much time.
"The system is a very equitable one," he said, pointing out that under the current system, unlike the former, entry-level players can be sent to the minors without having to clear waivers. "For a defenseman, it's almost impossible to achieve the numbers created 10 years ago."
Kovalchuk's earnings undoubtedly will complicate his next contract. All the Thrashers must do to retain his exclusive negotiating rights is to offer him a 10 percent raise ($113,000 per season), but a player who earned nearly $5 million per season for three seasons might not think so kindly of anything less.
Last season, Minnesota forward Marian Gaborik (selected one spot behind Heatley) had a long holdout to start the season, as he refused to take a pay cut in his base salary after earning large bonuses.
By the time he and the Wild reached an agreement, the fortunes of both were affected, as the Wild missed the playoffs after being conference finalists the previous season and the two-time 30-goal scorer netted just 18 in 65 games.
Grossman does not want to comment publicly on Kovalchuk's negotiations. Waddell will only make oblique comments. But if the NHL and the union can solve their differences, Kovalchuk's contract still may not be an easy hurdle for a team that hopes to make its first playoff appearance and needs the NHL's co-leader in goals.
The free agency period begins July 1.
"Obviously, every negotiation has its points you've got to get by, and this is just one of those you have to get by," Waddell said. "It is what it is. I have no idea what they're thinking even is."
ILYA KOVALCHUK'S 2003-04 BONUSES
8 апреля. Илья Ковальчук - обладатель "Трофея Харламова"
26 марта. НХЛ. Илью Ковальчука болельщики назвали
лучшим игроком года - Советский Спорт
6 марта. Любовь Ковальчук: Сын назван в честь Ильи
Муромца. - Советский Спорт.
27 февраля. Tardy Kovalchuk punished, misses first
game - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
25 февраля. Илья Ковальчук: Моя цель – приз «Ришара»
- Советский Спорт
8 апреля. Илья Ковальчук - обладатель "Трофея Харламова" - Советский Спорт.
26 марта. НХЛ. Илью Ковальчука болельщики назвали лучшим игроком года - Советский Спорт
6 марта. Любовь Ковальчук: Сын назван в честь Ильи Муромца. - Советский Спорт.
27 февраля. Tardy Kovalchuk punished, misses first game - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
25 февраля. Илья Ковальчук: Моя цель – приз «Ришара» - Советский Спорт