The National Hockey League rejected a proposed contract between left winger Ilya Kovalchuk and the New Jersey Devils Wednesday because of it’s circumvention of the league’s salary cap. The deal was reportedly worth $102 million for 17 years, but the team will have to reach a new deal with the star winger.
The contract was ultimately rejected because of the low salary at the end of the contract that would help the Devils slide under the salary cap. Kovalchuk would only earn $550,000 in each of the last five years he played for the team. For the first 11 years, he would have made $98.5 million of the $102 million.
The 2026-27 seasons would have been the last for Kovalchuk with the Devils had the deal gone through. In 2010, NHL gambling sites have set the Devils’ pre-season odds to win the Atlantic Division at 16/5. The Devils have to find another way to get the winger signed if they want to return to the playoffs.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly released a statement Wednesday announcing that the league would reject the deal.
“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,” Daly said. “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.”
Kovalchuk’s agent, Jay Grossman, declined to comment about the league’s statement.
It was rumored late Wednesday that Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello knew that the league was going to deny the deal prior to his announcement of it Tuesday afternoon. Lamoriello maintains that the team did nothing wrong, and that he disagrees with rules and precedents in place. He wants his team to return to the playoffs for a chance at the Easter Conference crown, and NHL lines have the Devil’s among the favorites at 8/1 odds.
“There is nothing that we have done wrong,” Lamoriello said. “This is within the rules. This is in the CBA. There are precedents that have been set. But I would agree we shouldn’t have these. I’m also saying that because it’s legal and this is something that ownership felt comfortable doing for the right reasons.”
It is unknown if the NHLPA will file a grievance on the matter. Officials have five days to make that filing. An arbitrator with knowledge of the collective bargaining agreement would have 48 hours to decide if the league had the right to reject the contract.
NHL sportsbooks have set the Devils just below the favorites to win the 2011 Stanley Cup at 14/1 odds.