Kovalchuk will be 44 when the contract ends, and even though he's unlikely to play that long, the terms have been criticized across the internet. The deal, which capitalizes on a loophole in the current collective bargaining agreement, allows Kovalchuk to receive a top-heavy $95 million over the first 10 years, but then payments take a big drop over the final seven.
The Devils acquired Kovalchuk, along with defenseman Anssi Salmela, last February from Atlanta in a deal that sent Niclas Bergfors, Johnny Oduya, Patrice Cormier and a first-round draft pick in 2010 to the Thrashers. He scored 10 goals to go with 17 assists in 27 regular-season games with New Jersey, and led the team with six points in five games during its opening-round loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.
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It's another move in what's turned out to be a busy offseason for general manager Lou Lamoriello, as he's already hired a new head coach (John MacLean), traded for Jason Arnott, lost Paul Martin to free agency and replaced him with rearguards Anton Volchenkov and Henrik Tallinder. The re-signing of Kovalchuk means there's probably more work (of the cap-clearing variety) to be done before the season opens. Prior to this deal, the Devils had just a little over $4 million in cap space remaining and still had four roster spots to fill.
It's also going to make the Atlantic Division, with Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, two teams that have also had rather busy offseasons, one of the toughest -- and best -- divisions in the league.