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Campbell's Cuts: What Kovalchuk's rejected contract means to the NHL

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

The rejection of the Ilya Kovalchuk contract by the NHL is by no means unprecedented. In reality, the league rejects a handful of contracts every year.

But they’re usually much smaller, more insignificant deals and the team and agent almost always make changes to suit the league and the contract is refiled and subsequently approved.

Never before, however, has it happened with a deal of this magnitude. The ink was barely dry on Kovalchuk’s 17-year, $102 million deal when word leaked the league had rejected it on the grounds that it circumvented the salary cap.

So, what happens now? Well, that’s the biggest question since all parties were tight-lipped about the whole thing Tuesday night.

But this much we know. The Devils can, and likely will, take another run at restructuring the deal so it meets the NHL’s standards. What makes this curious is that the league approved similar deals to Roberto Luongo, Marian Hossa and Chris Pronger and conducted an investigation that has yet to be completed. The league chose to reject this deal amid the investigation.

The NHL Players’ Association, meanwhile, was not commenting on the situation Tuesday night, but we know that it has five business days to appeal the ruling to an arbitrator, which means it has until July 27 to come to a decision on whether or not to appeal.

If that were to happen, the league and NHLPA would have to agree on an arbitrator and it’s believed the contract would be voided if the arbitrator sided with the league.

While there is nothing in the collective bargaining agreement that clearly states this kind of contract is illegal, experts contacted by Tuesday night were of mixed opinion on whether the league would have grounds that the contract illegally circumvents the CBA.

In the deal, Kovalchuk is due to receive $6 million for each of the next two seasons, $11.5 million for each season from 2012-13 through 2016-17, $10.5 million in 2017-18, $8.5 million in 2018-19, $6.5 million in 2019-20, $3.5 million in 2020-21, $750,000 in 2021-22 and $550,000 in each season from 2022-23 through 2026-27.

It’s clear Devils GM Lou Lamoriello, an ally of commissioner Gary Bettman, was not driving the bus on this contract.

“I would agree we shouldn’t have these (types of contracts),” Lamoriello told Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record. When asked why he would sign a player to such a deal, he said, “You’d have to speak to ownership about that.”

Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to His blog will appear Fridays and his column, Campbell's Cuts, appears Mondays.

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