Dreger: Kovalchuk saga deepens as NHL rejects 17-year deal

Darren Dreger

7/21/2010 1:17:20 AM

The NHL has decided to reject Ilya Kovalchuk's enormous deal with the New Jersey Devils because it constitutes a circumvention of the salary cap. 

The reason behind the rejection is that 17 years is an incredible length for any contract in professional sports, but when you look at the numbers on Kovalchuk's deal with the Devils it was easy to establish that the numbers dropped off incredibly on the back-end of the contract.  Neither the team nor the player expected Kovalchuk to finish his contract and play out those years. 

This may be a classic case of artificially lowering the annual average salary of $6 million by Kovalchuk and the Devils which according to the NHL, was done specifically to circumvent the salary cap.

So what happens next? 

Well we know that there are a lot more questions then there are answers at this stage.  I'm sure that the National Hockey League will continue to talk to both Ilya Kovalchuk and the New Jersey Devils.  The two sides can re-file, which means that they would have to go into yet another negotiation and come up with a package that the NHL can accept.

Alternatively, the Players' Association could get involved very swiftly and file a grievance.  If that is the case, then this procedure would slow to a crawl.  An arbitrator would then be called in to intervene.  As it stands now, until an arbitrator is called the contract is no-good and will continue to be no good until the Devils and Kovalchuk go back to the drawing board and come up with a better deal.