NHLPA Files Grievance on Behalf of Ilya Kovalchuk

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NHLPA Files Grievance on Behalf of Ilya Kovalchuk
The National Hockey League Players’ Association has filed a grievance on behalf of star free agent Ilya Kovalchuk. As was expected, the NHLPA filed the grievance on Tuesday in response to the National Hockey League rejecting Kovalchuk’s 17-year, $102 million contract signed with the New Jersey Devils last week.
The NHLPA issued the following 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 CBA, 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."
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly also issued a statement on behalf of the NHL.
"We have received formal notice that the NHLPA is grieving the League's rejection of Ilya Kovalchuk's contract with the New Jersey Devils.  Although there is no defined timetable at this point, we intend to work with the Players' Association to ensure an expeditious resolution of this dispute.  The League looks forward to the opportunity to establish its position before the arbitrator.  We will have no further public comment pending completion of the process."
The NHL rejected the deal late last week believing that the contract deliberately circumvented the league's salary cap. The deal was structured so that it would only carry an annual cap hit of $6 million per year, the average value of the contract. However the contract was front loaded with the 27-year-old sniper set to earn $95 million over the first 10 years of the contract and just $7 million over the last seven seasons, by which point he may have renegotiated or retired.
If the deal would have been approved, it would have been the longest contract in NHL history. The longest contract currently belongs to New York Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro who signed a 15-year contract in 2006, and in 2008 the Washington Capitals signed superstar Alexander Ovechkin to a 13-year contract extension.
For now, there will be no immediate response, as the process will call for an arbitrator to rule on the validity of the contract. First however, both sides must agree on an arbitrator. Once the arbitrator has been hired he or she will have 48 hours to rule on the case. If the arbitrator comes to the conclusion that the contract is valid then the current deal will stand. If the arbitrator agrees with the NHL however, Kovalchuk would once again become an unrestricted free agent and be able to sign with any team. There is also the option that Kovalchuk and the Devils restructure the deal to meet NHL approval.
The rejection of the contract by the NHL is not unique. The league usually rejects a small number of contracts a year. However, they are usually much smaller and insignificant in nature. Most, if not all of which are easily refiled and resolved, but never before have they been of this magnitude. The NHL has investigated front loaded contracts in the past, but all were eventually allowed, as it was too difficult to prove that they were not negotiated in good faith. This may come back to haunt the NHL as Chris Pronger’s $34.9 million contract spread over seven years with the Philadelphia Flyers or Marian Hossa’s $62.8 million contract spread over 12 years with the Chicago Blackhawks are two recent examples and may set a precedent.
Earlier in the year, Kovalchuk rejected a $101 million, 12-year extension from the Atlanta Thrashers before being dealt to the Devils in February. He also reportedly rejected offers from the Los Angeles Kings and SKA St. Petersburg of the Kontinental Hockey League in Russia.
Kovalchuk was selected first overall by the Atlanta Thrashers in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft. Last season, Kovalchuk had 41 goals and 85 points, including the 10 goals and 27 points he had while with the Devils. Kovalchuk then went on to lead the Devils in playoff scoring with six points, before being upset by the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round in five games. Kovalchuk set career-highs with 52 goals and 98 points in 2005-06 as a member of the Atlanta Thrashers.



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