Saturday, August 1, 2009

The NHL is investigating Chris Pronger's contract

Remember that deal that Chris Pronger signed with the Flyers last month? The NHL may have a problem with it. As you may recall, the Flyers signed Pronger to a 7 year extension, one that will keep him under contract through 2017, when he will be 42. The deal is worth a total of 34.45 million dollars and will give the Flyers a cap hit of just under 5 million dollars.

Here is how the deal breaks down for each season:
2010/2011: 7.6 million
2011/2012: 7.6 million
2012/2013: 7.2 million
2013/2014: 7 million
2014/2015: 4 million
2015/2016: 525,000
2016/2017: 525,000

The NHL's problem with the deal seems to be how it completely falls off at the end, Pronger will be making next to nothing in the last two seasons of the deal. Since this contract extension goes into affect after Pronger turns 35, the Flyers will still have a cap of just under 5 million dollars for the life of the deal, so the issue the NHL seems to have with it is how the Flyers used the minuscule dollar amount in the last two seasons to severely drop the average amount Pronger will make per season. For the first five years of the contract, the average per season is 6.68 million, so the 525K that he makes the last two years looks basically thrown in to give the Flyers a smaller cap hit.

Of course, since Pronger will be pushing 40 at the end of the deal, he will likely retire and won't care that he won't be making big money anymore, and that's the biggest problem the NHL has with the contract. The NHL is investigating Pronger's deal to see if the Flyers and Pronger had an agreement ahead of time that Pronger will retire after the '14/'15 season and the Flyers convinced him to add a couple of meaningless years for meaningless money at the end just to lower the overall cap hit. While many would see this as a smart move by the Flyers, the NHL feels it would a violation to the "spirit of the CBA". If the NHL feels that the Flyers did something wrong, they could decide to void the contract and even could take draft picks away from the Flyers.

The NHL is also investigating the Blackhawks 12 year deal with Marian Hossa. That contract looks way more fishy because if Hossa retires anytime before the end of the deal, the Blackhawks wouldn't have any cap hit at all because he signed the contract when he was younger than 35. Hossa's deal lasts until 2021 and has 4 years tacked onto the end with little money to help lower the cap hit.

As far as the Flyers are concerned, there is likely nothing to worry about. The Flyers will have the cap hit through the remainder of Pronger's contract no matter what and it's nearly impossible for the NHL to prove that there was an agreement in place ahead of time as to when Pronger would retire. The Flyers did nothing that violates the rules of the CBA, so it seems to me that if the NHL doesn't want contracts like this in the future, they need to change the rules. The NHL can't punish the Flyers for being smart enough to figure out how to pay a player what he is worth yet minimize the cap hit for the team.

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