After reintroducing Ilya Kovalchuk to the media on Tuesday afternoon the New Jersey Devils discovered his 17-year $102 million dollar contract was rejected the NHL. Hours following the press conference TSN broke the news that the league claimed Kovy’s contract, that would keep him with the Devils until he was 44, was a circumvention of the collective bargaining agreement.
The NHL’s issue is the amount of money that is paid to the 27-year-old sniper towards the latter stage of the rejected contract where he would earn a league minimum of $550,000 in the last five years. The NHLPA has until 5 p.m. Monday to file a grievance on behalf of Kovalchuk, which would be decided by an independent arbitrator. Should they do so there could be a long drawn out legal process between the two sides which could take weeks.
It is interesting to note that the Devil’s vice president of hockey operations, Steve Pellegrini, wrote much of the current CBA with the NHL when he was employed by them in 2005. He will now go head-to-head with his former colleagues on whether this really truly circumvents any part of the agreement.
Kovalchuk’s contract isnt the first of it’s kind with the length and money as TSN notes that:
Other players have signed similar front-heavy contracts that bend the parameters of the collective bargaining agreement. Roberto Luongo has a 12-year deal with the Vancouver Canucks worth US$63-million that will expire when the goalie is 43. Henrik Zetterberg and the Detroit Red Wings have a 12-year contract that has him earning US$67.65-million in the first nine seasons, but only US$5.35-million in the final three. Johan Franzen’s 11-year deal with the Wings is good until he’s 40 and pays him US$39.5-million in the first eight seasons, but only US$4-million in the last three. Goalie Rick DiPietro got a 15-year deal from the New York Islanders, and two-time NHL MVP Alex Ovechkin has a 13-year pact with the Washington Capitals. Kovalchuk’s deal topped all of those.
The three scenarios that remain for the Devils and Kovalchuk are as follows:
1. The NHLPA files a grievance and the Devils and Kovalchuk wait for the arbitrator to be hired and then make a ruling.
2. The Devils and Kovalchuk convince the NHLPA not to file a grievance and restructure the contract so that the league will approve it.
3. Kovalchuk convinces the NHLPA not to file a grievance and the Devils and Kovalchuk agree to part ways, putting Kovalchuk back on the open market.
So just as the summer of Kovalchuk was all but done it seems we are at a crossroads with no end in sight just quite yet. Stay Tuned.