Reuters - Wed, 21 Jul 15:21:00 2010
The NHL has rejected Russian winger Ilya Kovalchuk's $102 million, 17-year contract with the New Jersey Devils because it circumvents league rules.
Kovalchuk, 27, was scheduled to earn $95 million over the first 10 years of the contract and then $7 million over the last seven. That would result in an annual salary of $6 million.
"The contract has been rejected by the league as a circumvention of the Collective Bargaining Agreement," deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement, confirming media reports from the previous day of the rejection.
Until the issue is resolved, "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," Daly added.
US and Canadian media reported the league was concerned the contract circumvented the NHL salary cap by artificially lowering the annual average value of the contract.
Daly would not comment additionally on the reasons for the league's rejection of the contract, the longest-ever for an NHL player.
He said there were a number of possible next steps by Kovalchuk, the Devils and the NHL Players' Association but did not elaborate.
Canada's The Sports Network said the team could either re-file the contract or the Players' Association could file a grievance.
Should the Players' Association file a grievance, an arbitrator would determine the validity of the contract, TSN said.
"The NHLPA is currently analysing the basis upon which the NHL rejected the contract," Players' Association spokesman Jonathan Weatherdon said in a statement.
The Devils have made no comment since the NHL announcement and Kovalchuk's agent said he would not comment until the matter was resolved.