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Deadline for Kovalchuk ruling extended to Friday

September 1, 2010 |  1:56 pm

Prolonging a saga that has consumed all of the summer, the NHL and the NHL Players Assn. said Wednesday they had agreed to a two-day extension for the league's deadline to approve the validity of Ilya Kovalchuk's second contract with the New Jersey Devils. The NHL must now rule by 2 p.m. PDT  Friday whether the contract meets its vague guidelines for not circumventing the salary cap.

Kovalchuk's first deal with New Jersey, which would have paid him $102 million over 17 years, was rejected by the league. The players union filed a grievance over that decision but lost its case when arbitrator Richard Bloch ruled in the league's favor and said the agreement circumvented the salary cap.

The second deal has been reported to be worth $100 million over 15 years and has a less steep drop in its later years than the first contract.

After the left winger's first deal with New Jersey was rejected and he became a free agent again, the Kings -- who had pursued him when free agency began July 1 and were willing to pay him $80 million over 15 years -- were interested in talking to him again. However, Kovalchuk made it clear he was focused on negotiating with the Devils and that he wanted $100 million, a number the Kings weren't willing to go to because they believed they couldn't keep their core players if they paid Kovalchuk that much.

The delay means the announcement will be made Friday of Labor Day weekend, traditionally a slow business day.

The league's announcement was issued by e-mail at about 1:25 p.m. Wednesday and did not elaborate on what issues had led to extending the deadline. Lou Lamoriello, the Devils' general manager, issued a statement by e-mail a few minutes later:

“We have today been advised that the NHL and the NHLPA have agreed to extend until Friday the decision on whether to approve or reject the latest contract between Ilya Kovalchuk and the New Jersey Devils.

“We remain confident that the terms of this contract comply, in every respect, with the CBA and meet both the NHL’s concerns and the principles of Arbitrator Bloch’s decision.  We remain optimistic that this extension will result in an approval of the contract and that Ilya Kovalchuk will remain a valuable member of the Devils for the balance of his career.

“We will have no further comment until the decision is rendered.”

-- Helene Elliott