Bruins fans have wondered all offseason whether center Marc Savard would be back in Boston next season, but this probably isn’t what they had in mind. Savard, who signed a seven-year contract extension last season, could have his deal voided by the league as it is currently under investigation.
In rejecting Ilya Kovalchuk’s greivance with the league for deeming his 17-year, $102 million deal with the Devils bogus, arbiter Richard Bloch listed in the ruling’s footnotes that similar contracts that have already been registered with the league will be under investigation.
These so-called “retirement contracts” that have thrown the league for a loop are made when teams, in an effort to lower a player’s cap hit, tack on extra years at minimal dollars. A player’s cap number in the NHL is determined by dividing total dollars by the number of years, so even in guaranteeing more money in the early years (such as Savard’s $7 million in the first two seasons of the deal, which starts in the upcoming campaign) by adding years at low money, the hit is brought down dramatically (Savard’s cap hit will be $4.007).
Here is an excerpt from the ruling, which was leaked by Team 1200 radio in Ottowa:
It is true, as the Association observes, that the NHL has registered contracts with structures similar to the Kovalchuk SPC PA Exh. 8 reflects a list of 11 multi-year agreements, all of which involve players in their mid to late 30’s and early 40’s. Most of them reflect reasonably substantial “diveback” (salary reductions that extend over the “tails” of the Agreement). Of these, four such agreements, with players Chris Pronger, Marc Savard, Roberto Luongo, and Marian Hossa reflect provisions that are relatively more dramatic than the others. Each of these players will be 40 or over at the end of the contract term and each contract includes dramatic divebacks.
[...] 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 are being investigated currently with at least the possibility of a subsequent withdrawal of the registration.
The Bruins are in a tight spot cap-wise, but in voiding the contract the NHL would let Savard become an unrestricted free agent, which would mean the Bruins would receive nothing for him. His cap hit is very team friendly given his production, and with the 2010-11 season Nathan Horton’s first in Boston, one would think the Bruins would like to at least catch a glimpse of what the two could do playing together.
Additionally, it could be interesting to see what would come of Savard being a free agent. He’s heard his name in trade rumors all summer and could be willing to test the market if he doesn’t feel he’ll be a top forward with the Bruins in future years.