To quote the immortal Yogi Berra: "It ain't over 'til it's over."
The saga that refused to end refuses to end once again as the NHL and the Players' Association have mutually agreed to extend the deadline to accept or reject the latest contract between Ilya Kovalchuk and the New Jersey Devils until Friday at 5pm et.
The league had a five day period in which to approve or reject the deal, that was set to expire at 5pm on Monday, however the league appears to need more time to iron out the details. The NHL announced its decision with a press release shortly after 4pm et.
If the NHL turns it down, it would be the second time a long-term deal between Kovalchuk and the Devils had been rejected. The NHLPA would then have another five day window to file a grievance, something they did once before when the league chose not to allow the original 17-year, $102 million contract the Devils gave the Russian sniper.
If the NHL chooses to reject the deal, then the very real possibility exists that Kovalchuk will sign in the KHL, likely with SKA St. Petersburg which is believed to have offered Kovalchuk an enormous deal to return to his homeland to play. Kovalchuk's agent has made it clear that if his client signs in Russia, he will remain there for at least one full season. The KHL season opens next week while the Devils are slated to open training camp on the 17th of the month.
Should the NHL allow the contract then the Devils will have to quickly shed about $3 million to get under the league's mandated salary cap of $59.4 million.
Even if the deal is accepted, the possibility also exists that the Devils could be fined or penalized for their role in the saga.
The sticking point of the original rejected deal appeared to be front loading of the contract and the length of the deal. The league has stated that they believe the Devils deliberately circumvented the cap and that the Devils did not expect Kovalchuk to play out the entirety of the deal. The now 27-year old would have been 44-years old when the deal expired and would have been playing for the league minimum. Under the terms of the new deal, Kovalchuk would instead be 42-years old when the contract expires, earning a base salary of $4 million in his final year.
The former Rocket Richard trophy winner had 41 goals and 44 assists in 76 games last season, split between the Devils and the Atlanta Thrashers.