There were smiles, hugs and handshakes in Newark on Tuesday afternoon when the Devils and Ilya Kovalchuk announced their long-term union.
Not even 24 hours later, the partnership is up in the air as the NHL voided the Devils’ 17-year, $102 million contract with the sharp shooter yesterday. The NHLPA can file a grievance against the league within the next five days.
“The contract has been rejected by the league as a circumvention of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Under the CBA, the contract rejection triggers a number of possible next steps,” NHL?deputy commissioner Bill?Daly said in a statement. “In the interim, the player is not entitled to play under the contract, nor is he entitled to any of the rights and benefits that are provided for thereunder.”
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Kovalchuk would become a free agent again if there’s no grievance filed or if the Devils fail to reach a deal that passes the NHL’s inspection.
The length and front-loading of the contract are believed to be deal breakers. Kovalchuk will earn $98.5 million in the first 11 years of the contract and just $3.5 million in the final six. He’ll be 44 when the deal runs out in 2027.
Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello, though, fired back at the NHL late yesterday, reaffirming that the deal is in fact legal.
“We are extremely disappointed that the NHL has decided to reject the contract,” Lamoriello said in a statement. “The contract complies with the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.”