See, there really is nothing for either side in this fight.
Having teams cook up bizarre, front-loaded contracts that whittle down to $50 a season in the 45th year doesn't help NHL players in general. It may help teams like Chicago win the Stanley Cup, but the vast majority of NHL clubs don't benefit from these kind of deals that most GMs see as a form of cheating.
Everybody knows how much money is on the table for the players. It's set out in the collective bargaining agreement. It's just a question of how its divvied up. The more Ilya Kovalchuk gets, the less somebody else gets, or at least the bigger the escrow cut that comes the way of the average NHL player.
So if the NHL and the NHL Players Association are really using the 48-hour extension in the Kovalchuk decision to hammer out some kind of mid-CBA agreement on how to handle these deals, it's probably a good thing for everybody. Well, everybody except maybe Kovalchuk. And a few others.
Larry Brooks of the New York Post delivered an intriguing scoop late Wednesday night in which he reported that the league has offered to approve the newest Kovalchuk contract with the New Jersey Devils, and stop threatening to invalidate a few other similar deals, if the union agrees to some new rules that will make these kinds of contracts less attractive to teams in the future.
Brooks also reported that if the PA doesn't agree to these terms by 5 p.m. on Friday, commissioner Gary Bettman will reject the Kovalchuk deal, invalid Roberto Luongo's new contract with the Vancouver Canucks and hold a more formal probe into Marian Hossa's contract with the Blackhawks.
This is some heavy poker.
It's a tough fight for the union, particularly given the fact it doesn't have a leader. Moreover, 80 per cent of the players in the league don't benefit from these kinds of contracts. In fact, through the escrow system, you could argue these deals are under-written by the vast majority of players.
That said, there's pride on the line here. If the union agrees to these conditions with two years still to go on the existing CBA, it's essentially allowing clawbacks in the middle of a contract.
The league, meanwhile, would still be under the gun to deliver some form of punishment to the Devils for attempting to circumvent the salary cap in the first place. If Bettman can cut a deal with the players union now, and then chooses to let the Devils off the hook, he'll have some explaining to do to about 20 other franchises.
Lots to look for in the next 48 hours.