There appears to be good news on the horizon for hockey fans as New Jersey Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek expects the Ilya Kovalchuk situation to be resolved quickly.
Vanderbeek told the New York Daily News that while he could not comment directly on the case, he did say that he felt that it was in the best interest of both sides to quickly resolve the grievance. While there is no arbitrator currently in place, Vanderbeek did not expect it to take long to find an appropriate candidate.
"From what I understand, the union and the league are moving forward to choose an arbitrator," Vanderbeek told the Daily News. "I think (NHL deputy commissioner) Bill Daly said they want to see this done on an expedited basis. The union wants to see it done quickly. I see no reason why that won't be done."
The league made headlines last week when they rejected Kovalchuk's heavily front-loaded 17-year, $102 million contract with the Devils, the NHLPA officially filed a grievance on behalf of Kovalchuk this past Monday.
While Vanderbeek was clear that he hoped a resolution would come quickly, the controversy has not hurt his team in terms of the box office since the Kovalchuk signing was originally announced.
"We've seen a spike in season tickets," Vanderbeek told the Daily News. "A lot of interest and a fair amount of buying. The good news for us was we were already above last year maybe by four percent, at least two weeks ago, but we've seen a spike in interest over the last week and a half."
Until the situation is resolved, Kovalchuk remains in contract limbo. Should the arbitrator reject the grievance, then the Russian sniper would once again become an unrestricted free agent; however if the arbitrator sides with the NHLPA, then the deal will stand.
The 27-year old Kovalchuk was considered the biggest fish in the free agent pond in heading into the off-season. He had 41 goals and 44 assists in 76 games last season split between the Devils and the Atlanta Thrashers.
While the NHL has allowed front-loaded contracts in the past, the League feels as though the Devils deliberately attempted to circumvent the salary cap by paying Kovalchuk $95 million over the first 10 years of the deal and then just $7 million over the last seven seasons, including a league minimum $550,000 for the final five years of the deal for a cap friendly hit of only $6 million per season. Kovalchuk would be 44-years old when the pact was set to expire.