Ilya Kovalchuk's 17-Year Contract Rejected by NHL
The contract, which would have paid Kovalchuk $102 million over the 17 years, was heavily front-loaded (like many of the double-digit year contracts signed over the years) to create a smaller salary cap figure (total dollars divided by total years). As previously constructed, the deal would have carried a $6 million per year cap hit, which is quite small for one of the NHL's best and most dangerous goal-scorers.
It also would have kept him under contract until his 44th birthday after the 2026-27 season.
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly explained the rejection on Wednesday: "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 that may be elected by any or each of the NHLPA, the player and/or the club. 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. The league will have no further comment on this matter pending further developments."
Devils GM Lou Lamoriello issued the following statement: "We are extremely disappointed that the NHL has decided to reject the contract of Ilya Kovalchuk. The contract complies with the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. We will have no further comment until the process outlined in the CBA is complete."
The Devils and Kovalchuk can agree to a new deal that meets the NHL's approval, or the NHLPA can file a grievance in defense of the contract.
Earlier Tuesday, Lamoriello revealed that he "might agree" that something is wrong with such a contract in theory and that he "absolutely" rolled his eyes at the 17-year deal, but pointed out that it's within the rules of the CBA. He also seemed to imply that it was the team's ownership, perhaps more than Lamoriello, that pushed for the massive deal.
The NHL had previously investigated contracts signed by Marian Hossa (12 years) and Chris Pronger (seven years at the age of 35) last offseason, but did not reject them. In May, 2008, the NHL did reject Martin Erat's contract extension with the Nashville Predators. The two sides eventually came to an agreement on a seven-year, $31.5 million deal.
In the end, you have to expect the two sides to work out a new deal, but now it's simply a matter of continuing the waiting game for the situation to be resolved.