Kovalchuk deal OK'd by NHL, NHLPA

The NHL and NHLPA have reached an agreement to revise rules that regulate long-term contracts as part of a global settlement, allowing Ilya Kovalchuk's contract with the New Jersey Devils to pass.

Ilya Kovalchuk's contract ordeal is over.

The NHL and NHLPA have reached an agreement to revise the rules that regulate long-term contracts as part of a global settlement on Friday, allowing Kovalchuk's contract with the New Jersey Devils to pass.

Jay Grossman, Kovalchuk's agent, confirmed the news in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

Both parties agreed to extend the 5 p.m. ET deadline in order to complete the formal paperwork, which was finished in the early Saturday morning hours according to a report on NHL.com.

The agreement means Kovalchuk's revised 15-year, $100-million US contract with the New Jersey Devils will be approved by the league.

The agreement comes after more than a month of disputes between all parties. Kovalchuk agreed to a monstrous 17-year, $102-million deal with the Devils on July 19.

The NHL quickly moved to reject the contract, claiming it circumvented the league's salary cap. An arbitrator upheld that decision on Aug. 9 after the union filed a grievance on July 26 in response to the league's rejection.

The new deal will put a $6.67-million annual hit on the Devils' salary cap and put the team roughly $3 million over the league limit ($59.4 million) with only 21 players under contract, two under the league limit.

Salary cap concern

With a full roster, Devils president and general manager Lou Lamoriello probably is going to have to clear about $5 million in cap space before the season starts on Oct. 8.

While the annual salary breakdown for the deal was not immediately available, Kovalchuk will earn significantly more money in the final five years.

Arbitrator Richard Bloch had rejected the first contract because Kovalchuk was slated to earn only $550,000 in each of the last five seasons. It would have run through the 2026-27 season, when Kovalchuk will be 44.

The 15-year deal matches the length of one signed by New York Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro.

For the last few years, teams have been locking up players to long-term contracts, which takes them into their 40s.

Displeased with this front-loaded trend, the NHL investigated contracts awarded to Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo, Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa and Boston centre Marc Savard after it and Bloch rejected Kovalchuk's original deal.

All three of those players' contracts were also approved as part of Friday's agreement between the league and the players' association, as the sides agreed to stop investigating current deals that may circumvent the salary cap.

The league and players' association also agreed to adopt regulations governing contracts lasting more than five years, which will supplement the current collective bargaining agreement and will be imposed on any contract signed from Saturday onward.

"We're pleased to be able to establish bright line rules for these contracts going forward and are happy we can turn the page on existing contracts so we're looking forward, not backward," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told NHL.com. "From start to finish of the process the Players' Association was responsive, interested and shared our objective to create certainty in this area."

Should he play for the next 15 years, Kovalchuk, 27, will finish up his career in 2025, when he turns 42.

End of long-term deals?

After Kovalchuk, the new settlement should put an end to similar long-term contracts.

Had the NHL rejected Kovalchuk a second time, the league could have found itself in a precarious situation.

SKA St. Petersburg of Russia's Continental Hockey League (KHL) had offered Kovalchuk a huge deal to return to Russia, according to reports.

Kovalchuk's Russian agent, Yuri Nikolaev, told a Russian told newspaper that if his client signed with the KHL, he would stay in his homeland for at least one season.

Kovalchuk, who scored a combined 41 goals and 44 assists last season with the Devils and Thrashers, was the most coveted free agent this off-season.

He turned down a pair of offers from Atlanta — a seven-year deal worth $70 million and a $101-million pact over 12 seasons — before the team finally traded him to New Jersey in February.

As a free agent, Kovalchuk was the target of several teams.

The Los Angeles Kings attempted contract talks with Kovalchuk on three separate occasions, but wouldn't meet the forward's financial demands in the end.

Kovalchuk was supposed to be the last link in New Jersey's push for a fourth Stanley Cup title since 1995. However, he could not prevent the team from being eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by Philadelphia.