The New Jersey Devils did more than sign Ilya Kovalchuk to a massive contract.
A byproduct of the revised 15-year deal was that the Devils helped the NHL and its players union reach an agreement on long-term contracts that will define how much money will count toward salary caps.
"That is exactly what just transpired with the amendment," Devils president and general manager Lou Lamoriello said Saturday. "I think there should be lines where everybody knows exactly what they are. Uncertainties create confusion."
Lamoriello said the Devils acted in good faith and abided by the collective bargaining agreement in signing the 27-year-old Kovalchuk to a $102-million US, 17-year deal in July.
However, the NHL vetoed the original contract a day later because it circumvented the salary cap. The NHL Players' Association appealed and an arbiter upheld the league's ruling.
That sent Kovalchuk and the Devils back to the bargaining table. A little more than month later, New Jersey sent a revised $100-million, 15-year deal to the league for approval.
"We would not have submitted if we felt it would have been rejected," Lamoriello said.
It wasn't rejected because the league and union hammered out a deal to set boundaries on long-term contracts. The agreement grandfathered Kovalchuk's contract. The NHL agreed to end its investigations into contracts signed in 2009 by Marian Hossa of the Blackhawks, Roberto Luongo of the Canucks, Marc Savard of the Bruins and Chris Pronger of the Flyers.
Under the old system, long-term contracts were averaged annually to determine the cap hit.
The new agreement with the league and the union defines long-term contracts as those five years or longer, starting with those signed on Saturday and after.
In calculating salary cap values, any long-term contract that extends past a player's 41st birthday will be valued and accounted for in two ways:
The compensation for all seasons that do not include or succeed the player's 41st birthday will be totalled and divided by the number of those seasons to determine the annual average value. Inall subsequent seasons, the team's cap charge will be the actual compensation paid to the player in either that season or seasons.
For any long-term contract that averages more than $5.75 million for the three highest-compensation seasons, the salary cap value for any season in which the player is age 36, 37, 38, 39 and/or 40 shall be a minimum of $1 million.
"We're pleased to be able to establish clearly defined rules for these types of contracts going forward and just as happy we can turn the page on uncertainties relating to several other existing contracts," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said.
The approval of the contract means that Lamoriello has work to do to get the Devils under the $59.4-million salary cap before the season starts in October.
The Devils are roughly $3 million over the cap with only 21 players under contract, meaning they have two open spots on the roster. "We'd love to keep every one of our players," Lamoriello said.
"We know that is impossible because we have just added an exceptional player, which is an understatement, in Ilya Kovalchuk and because of that, you have to make some moves. We haven't won in the last few years, and I don't think anyone should think we should be sitting still. We all have to be held accountable for it."
Lamoriello won't rush to make moves, noting that training camp might help clear the picture on who stays and goes.