Okay, so that title is a little misleading. But in the wake of the Ilya Kovalchuk arbitration ruling yesterday and the dismissal of his 17-year contract with the Devils, one other fascinating point has been raised.
We talked last night about how Richard Bloch mentioned in his ruling that contracts for Chris Pronger, Marian Hossa, Marc Savard and Roberto Luongo could still be thrown out by the NHL for circumenting the salary cap, as prohibited in Article 26 of the CBA. Outside of tossing the contract out, there are penalties that the Commissioner could levy on teams if they are found to be in violation of Article 26.
According to the CBA, Gary Bettman himself may fine any team that circumvents the cap up to $5 million, force forfeiture of draft picks as determined by the Commissioner, and force forfeiture of games. Ah, yes, that last one got your attention, didn't it?
The exact language of that section:
(iv) Declare a forfeiture of any NHL Game(s) determined to have been affected by a Circumvention;
Which leads me to where we're going with this: could the Blackhawks be forced to forfeit their Stanley Cup victory? Hear me out on this.
There's one difference between the Hossa deal and those of Pronger, Savard and Luongo. The latter three do not begin until this upcoming season, while the Hossa deal began at the start of last season. As a result, only the circumvention by the Blackhawks in the Hossa deal would have impacted NHL games.
If the League determines that the Hossa contract was in violation of Article 26 of the CBA, it would be fully within their power to strip the Blackhawks of all 68 wins -- 52 regular season, 16 playoff -- that they racked up in 2009-2010. Obviously, the Stanley Cup would go with them.
Now, this probably will never happen, but in line with the CBA and in line with the precedent set by Bloch's ruling, it could. And if it did, what would happen to the Cup? Would there just be no winner in 2009-2010, or would the runner up have claim to the title? Or would perhaps some other team -- the AHL champion Hershey Bears, perhaps -- have the right to a claim?
As a disclaimer, I'd never want this to happen, because A) it'd be a terrible way to end a 35 year Cup drought, B) the Blackhawks beat us fair and square and C) Hossa basically sucked in the Finals anyway.
We don't have access to the current agreement between the NHL and the Stanley Cup Trustees, who are the independent owners of the Cup. (The NHL does not own the Cup.) Unfortunately, we can only presume what would happen in this case -- it would like be solely up to the two Trustees, Brian O'Neill and Ian "Scotty" Morrison, who according to the Hockey Hall of Fame, "have absolute power over all matters regarding the Stanley Cup."