- UPDATE: Late last night the NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly announced, "The [Kovalchuk] contract has been rejected by the League as a circumvention of the Collective Bargaining Agreement." Scott Burnside does a solid job showing that this Kovalchuk deal is not materially different from the extra-long deals signed by Hossa, Luongo, Franzen, etc. The consensus seems to be that there is nothing explicit in the CBA that would bar these types of contracts, although everyone involves understands that the lengthy deals are a violation of the spirit of the CBA. If the NHLPA files a grievance, which we at GTOG expect they will, the issue will go to an arbitrator familiar with the CBA. It is looking like an uphill battle for the League in arbitration - odds seem to be that the contract will be upheld by the arbitrator because it doesn't specifically violate the CBA - but kudos to the NHL for calling shenanigans.
- The more I think about it, the more I consider the Kovalchuk contract a lousy deal for the Devils. There's been a lot of debate about this on the Internets, but there is some consensus developing on two points: 1) Kovalchuk is certainly worth $6 million dollars now; and 2) it's nearly as certain that he won't be worth close to that by about half-way through his 17-year deal. But let's focus on the present for a moment and take stock of recent developments. New Jersey now boasts a top-6 forward group of Parise, Elias, Kovalchuk, Zajac, Langenbrunner, and Arnott. And lo and behold, look at Tampa Bay's bench and you see Lecavalier, St. Louis, Stamkos, Malone, and Gagne. I don't need to name the Capitals' and Flyers' forwards for you because I just ate, and it's important that I keep my food down. These teams are all pretty stacked up front. But there's something all of them lack.
- And wouldn't you know it, Ray Shero zigged when everyone else zagged, constructing the finest group of top 4 defenseman in the conference. Am I concerned about the holes the Pens have right now on the wing? Full disclosure: a little. I also think we'll be more versatile and playoff ready than the forward-heavy teams. Granted, I thought the same thing a year ago at this time. But that was before we stole the Devil's best defenseman.
Thoughts on the Steelers and Buccos after the jump...
- There aren't many things I enjoy more than saying the name "Maurkice Pouncey" aloud, while affecting an exaggerated Pittsburgh accent. Try it, Pittsburghers. Maurkice Pouncey is tiiired. Maurkice Pouncey ran a miiile with a chiiild. What a smiiile on Maurkice Pouncey. But now I can't think of Pouncey without considering the current unfortunate state of the Steelers. In case you missed it, Pittsburgh's first round round draft choice is under investigation for allegedly taking $100,000 from an agent's representative right before playing O-line for the Florida Gators in this year's Sugar Bowl. No way the Steelers knew that. No one did. If you watched the draft, you remember all the experts going on about how the kid can't miss and how he's a terrific person and how they all wanted their daughters to marry him. It's entirely possible that those things are all true, and that he also took the $100,000 in violation of NCAA rules. Frankly, I don't care. You're forgiven, Maurkice Pouncey. What I do care about is that I haven't heard any positive news about the Steelers - and I haven't felt positive about them - in what feels like many months. Can we turn this thing around already?
- OK, time to introduce a little perspective. If the Steelers got you down, consider this headline from yesterday's PPG: Pirates Notebook: Huntington Stresses Long View. That sounds like a headline from "The Onion," doesn't it? You have the longest streak of losing seasons in the history of major league sports, and you are stressing, wait for it, "the long view." That is just golden, Neil. And the Pirates GM fleshed that out a bit by offering this observation: "Short term, really, the only thing that we feel we've missed on is wins and losses at the major-league level." I'm not making this up.
- We've given Lebron James a pretty hard time over the last couple of weeks, and he deserved it. Then recently Michael Jordan emerges to announce that he never would have attempted to join forces with other superstars like Magic and Bird, because he was trying to beat those guys. Now Magic Johnson pipes in to say, hey, no way he would have wanted to play with Jordan and Bird because, yeah, he was trying to beat those guys, too. OK, Magic and Michael. Your legacies are secure. Now enough with the self-serving statements already.