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NHL Players' Assn. files grievance over Kovalchuk contract rejection [Updated]

July 26, 2010 | 11:12 am

Ilya_400 As expected, the NHL Players' Assn. has filed a grievance over the league's rejection of the 17-year, $102-million contract between Ilya Kovalchuk and the New Jersey Devils.

The NHL last week refused to approve the contract on the basis that the deal circumvented the collective bargaining agreement, apparently because it was dramatically front-loaded and tapered dramatically to $550,000 a year for the last five years in order to get a low average annual value.

The players association issued a short statement:

"The NHLPA has filed a grievance disputing the NHL's rejection of the standard player contract between the New Jersey Devils and Ilya Kovalchuk. Under the terms of the [collective bargaining agreement], the NHLPA and Mr. Kovalchuk are entitled to an expedited resolution of this matter. The NHLPA will have no further comment until this matter has been resolved by an arbitrator.”

The matter is supposed to go to an arbitrator within 48 hours. However, there is no system arbitrator currently in place, raising doubt over whether an arbitrator acceptable to the union and the league can be agreed on in short order.

If the arbitrator upholds the rejection of the contract, Kovalchuk will become a free agent and can negotiate with any team -- and if that happens, the Kings hope to swoop in. They had offered him $80 million over 15 years and had structured their offer to taper off much less drastically in later years than the Devils' deal, in the hopes that the NHL would have accepted it had Kovalchuk chosen to play in Los Angeles.

If the arbitrator rules that the league was wrong to reject the contract, the contract will go into effect and this bizarre saga will end.

[Updated at 11:23 a.m.: The NHL has responded to the players association's grievance over the league's rejection of the contract between Ilya Kovalchuk and the New Jersey Devils: "The grievance is not surprising or unexpected. We welcome the opportunity to establish our position before the arbitrator," NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said.]

More later at

-- Helene Elliott

Photo: Ilya Kovalchuk with the New Jersey Devils in April. Credit: Jim McIsaac / Getty Images