NEW YORK — Ilya Kovalchuk is an unrestricted free agent for the second time this summer.

Independent arbitrator Richard Bloch ruled in favour of the NHL’s rejection of Kovalchuk’s 17-year, US$102-million contract with the New Jersey Devils.

The NHL team released a statement Monday night saying it respects Bloch’s ruling and indicated that it still hopes to land the talented Russian.

“While we do not currently have a contract with Ilya Kovalchuk, discussions have resumed and we are hopeful that a contract will be reached that meets with the principles in arbitrator Bloch’s award and the NHL’s approval,” said Devils president and general manager Lou Lamoriello.

Kovalchuk agreed to the deal with the Devils on July 20 but the league ruled later that night that the landmark contract, the longest in NHL history, violated the salary cap.

The NHL Players’ Association then filed a grievance disputing the league’s rejection.

The NHLPA said in a statement that it was “disappointed with the arbitrator’s ruling to uphold the NHL’s rejection of the contract between the New Jersey Devils and Ilya Kovalchuk.”


  1. cam7777 says:

    According to Larry Brooks, this is hardly a victory at all for the NHL.  Apparently, the arbitrator merely decided that a player earning 97% of his salary before diveback (before the salary switches to 0.5 million) is too great an amount.  However, he only set the reasonable amount at 94%.  This still means that Kovalchuk can earn upwards of 95 million before they roll back the dollar values. 

    If this is true, the contract could be hammered out by the end of the night.   This is hardly even a road block.

  2. reinjosh says:

    Thats ridiculous. I hardly see what the point is of dropping the number by 3 whole percent. It barely even sets precedence.

  3. cam7777 says:

    Basically, it allows the league to look okay and save face in the hearing, since they had no ground to walk on.  It makes teams aware that there will be a battle over this very soon.

  4. leafstime says:

    Kovalchuk can be had. Burke can offer $7.5 per yr for 5 years. Done deal. Do it.

  5. mojo19 says:

    To Cam7777

    Since it went from 97% to 94% of the contract being paid out before it drops to a half mil, that means that a little over $3 million gets moved to the final 5-6 years of the contract, which would make it more like $1 million per year at the end, which is actually a big difference for Ilya to walk away from and retire early.

    So in fact that is a pretty big difference.

  6. thisgamewelose says:

    That's not going to happen.  Kovie is looking for a long term deal. Lots of money, regardless of how many years. Kovie is not signing 7.5 for 5 years.

  7. cam7777 says:

    Boo Hoo, he makes 95 million instead of 98, or he can play an extra year.  It doesn't matter to him anyways, as at age 38, he'll likely sign a contract in Russia and make even more money.  I doubt he's going to hold up this getting done just to make the difference between 95 and 98 million 10 years from now.  For that little bit of money, I'm sure they can offer him some other reward, off the books – "and when you retire, we'll pay you 3 million dollars for a year of "scouting", okay?"

  8. albertateams says:

     I agree.

    It does also draw a line as to where clubs can go as far as these long term mega contracts until the CBA is renegotiated. Although its not much of a victory for the league it does send a message that you can't go beyond this. So for example next year somebody like Pairse doesn't sign a front loaded contract until hes 50. Its a minor victory and it sets the ton for CBA negotiations.

  9. HABSSTAR says:

    None of these contracts would even be an issue if they'd just have the actual salary count towards the cap on a year by year basis, instead of the stupid average. 

  10. JoelJoel says:

    Just curiously, say a player were to sign a 10 year front loaded contract worth a total of 50 mil during the first five years then only, say, 15 mil in the last five. If they retire after the fifth year, wait until a few weeks into the next season and sign with another (or the same) club. Would this be legal in the current CBA? This way the first team only takes a 6.5 mil cap hit for five years, even though they pay the player 10 mil.

    Also, would it make a difference what age they were when they "retired"?

    If this were possible, then why not front load every star player for long term contracts with decent pay in the end, but plan on them retiring? I mean, obviously their dialogue with the player about retiring while they negotiate the contract would be illegal, but if they couldn't prove that, would there be any violation of the current agreement?

    Common sense tells me that is clearly cheating, but then again, I feel the same about the Pronger, Hossa, and Kovaluchuk contracts. Maybe no one in the respective organizations openly said, "okay, we're going to sign you through to your early forties, even though you will retire when you're only thirty x", but it is understood that they won't fulfill the entirety of the contract.

  11. JoelJoel says:

    Or even use a slightly more complex equation such as:
    Half of the cap hit comes from the year total and half from the total average.
    For example a 2 year contract worth 5 mil in year one and 2 mil in year two would look like:

    Half of year one average: 5/2=2.5
    Half of year two average: 2/2=1
    Half of average: (5+2)/2=3.5; 35./2=1.75

    Year one cap hit: 2.5+1.75=4.25
    Year two cap hit: 1+1.75=2.75

    Kind of a hybrid between average cap hit and single year cap hit. Or at least some variation on that.

    With this system Ilya's cap hit on for the rejected contract would look like this:
    Average cap hit over 17 years (the divided by two): 102/17=6 6/2=3
    year 1: 6/2=3   cap hit: 3+3=6 mil
    year 6: 11.5/2=5.75 Cap hit: 5.75+3=8.75mil
    year 17: .55/2=0.275 Cap hit: 0.275+3=3.275mil

    Still a bit cheep, but 50% more fair.

    Just an idea.

  12. cam7777 says:

    It does make sense in some smaller cases though.  Look at a guy like Jason Blake.  His salary went from 5 million, to 2.5 by the end of his 5 year contract, and it was designed to go in accordance with his production.  He actually intended to play every year on the deal, but the lower years at the end brought the cap hit down to 4 million in the first two years.   I don't mind the average salary, just cap it at a certain number of years so it actually makes sense.  Everyone knows Kovalchuk would retire at 37 or 38, so there's 6-7 useless years tacked on to that contract.  Whereas Jason Blake, for instance, will probably play through to the end of his contract, as 2.5 million dollars is nothing to sneeze at.

    The NHL should basically try to give themselves the power to determine what range a player's cap hit can be at.  For instance, Kovalchuk is a 7-9 million dollar player, so there's no way his cap should be at 6 million.  If they give themselves the right to set a "suitable range" for individual players should they feel it necessary, it gives them something concrete to work with, and hand down rulings not unlike what they do with RFA's.   What do you think of that?

  13. cam7777 says:

    I can't be certain, but I'm pretty sure there are some rules against retiring and returning when you still have a contract.  Plus, no player would do that, as it's just too obvious an unethical.  Even the filthiest Russians would be unlikely to pull off a maneuver like that.

  14. cam7777 says:

    It's kind of gone under-reported so far, but Mike Gillis confirmed this morning, that the NHL has re-opened it's investigation on Luongo, as well as three other contracts (likely Pronger, Savard and either Hossa or Keith).  Apparently, they are going to be able to retro-actively unregister these contracts now, and make these players free agents, or force their teams to renegotiate terms.  This comes from arbitrator Bloch.

    It's pretty clear that Pronger and Savard are targets, since their contracts clearly disobey the new rulings (94% of contract paid before rollback, no more), but I can't be certain who the fourth would be.  Hossa's contract has already been underway for a year, whereas Pronger and Savard's contracts haven't technically started paying out yet.  This leads me to believe the 4th might be Keith, but I think his contract is actually pretty fair.

    You have to think though, that Chicago would be pretty pleased if Hossa's contract could be made null and void.  I can't imagine Boston being too concerned if Savard was suddenly a UFA either.  Fact is, he probably should have been a free agent anyways, as Chia clearly only resigned him with the intention of using him to land Kaberle.  He screwed himself, but Bettman is coming to the rescue.

  15. Boston_Bruins says:

    It will be such a joke if anything happens to any of thse contracts. First of all it didn't make sense to void Kovalchuk's contract because of the precedent. Now it's like they're reversing everything and creating their own precedent and using it to void past contracts. It doesn't make sense.

  16. cam7777 says:

    Apparently, the investigations have been ongoing since the deals were signed (all of them).  The NHL was basically waiting for one contract bad enough to set a precedent.  You have to admit though, for Boston and Vancouver, reworking Savard and Luongo's contracts could be a godsend.  Philly too, was going to be stuck with a cap hit for 2 years after Pronger retired (possibly 3).   Bettman is saving the GMs and owners from themselves here.  The only one who would get really screwed would be Chicago, as they traded several players away to keep Hossa, and cannot afford him if they have to increase his cap hit.

  17. Boston_Bruins says:

    It could benefit Philadelphia, but that's only because Pronger was a 35+ contract. And still, they knowingly signed him to that deal and he did absolutely nothing this year that would make them second guess their decision.

    Reworking the Savard contract would make it worse. Because he's under 35 the 7 year deal could have been turned into a 4 or 5 year deal when he retired. Now they'd have to get him at a higher cap hit so as not to cir*****vent the cap. They're already over the cap too.

  18. cam7777 says:

    Savard's no longer worth 7 million a year though.  He'd be lucky to command a 2 year, 8 million dollar contract on the open market after that concussion.  The man was in a dark room with no sound for a month.  It's all too suspicious.  It sucks for Savard, because he thought he'd hit the jackpot. 

    Also, Philly did not knowingly sign that deal.  They thought because the deal was signed before he was 35, that it would still count for the retirement plan.  As it turns out, Bettman decided after it was signed, that since the contract started after Pronger was 35, the retirement rule would not apply.  Even if he brings them the cup, 3 phantom cap hits of 5 million dollars will take their toll.

  19. mojo19 says:

    Ya but let's just say Ilya does decide to play that extra year  for an extra $3 million (or whatever), his cap hit will be like $6.5 million (or whatever) and maybe at that time he just won't be worth it for the Devs.

  20. cam7777 says:

    Well, that's the risk they take I guess.  Chances are there will be better money in Russia by that point, but if there isn't, oh well, they got one of the league's best snipers at 2 million less than they should have for 10 years. 

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