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New Jersey star Ilya Kovalchuk had his staggering 17-year, $102-million US contract rejected by the NHL on Tuesday night. ((Mel Evans/Associated Press))

That didn't take long.

Mere hours after the New Jersey Devils and Russian left-winger Ilya Kovalchuk officially agreed Tuesday to a landmark 17-year, $102-million US contract, the NHL rejected the deal.

A source told both The Canadian Press and Associated Press the contract was rejected because it circumvented the league's salary cap.

"The contract has been rejected by the league as a circumvention of the Collective Bargaining Agreement," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement. "Under the CBA, the contract rejection triggers a number of possible next steps that may be elected by any or each of the NHLPA, the Player and/or the Club. In the interim, the player is not entitled to play under the contract, nor is he entitled to any of the rights and benefits that are provided for thereunder.

"The league will have no further comment on this matter pending further developments."

The deal, which was originally agreed to on Monday, was deemed illegal because of the low-end salary cap hit the Devils would take during the life of the contract.

It was only a few hours earlier that New Jersey general manager Lou Lamoriello and a beaming Kovalchuk were on hand at a news conference to announce the staggering terms of the contract.

Kovalchuk was scheduled to make $6 million in each of the next two seasons and $11.5 million each of the following five seasons.

He would then be paid:

  • 2017-18: $10.5 million
  • 2018-19: $8.5 million
  • 2019-20: $6.5 million
  • 2020-21: $3.5 million
  • 2021-22: $750,000
  • Final five years: $550,000

The source also said that neither party believed Kovalchuk, 27, would play to the end of the contract, when he would turn 44.

NHL puts kibosh on Kovy

Here is the financial breakdown of Ilya Kovalchuk's 17-year, $102-million US deal that was rejected by the NHL on Tuesday night.

  • 2010-11 — $6 million
  • 2011-12 — $6 million
  • 2012-13 — $11.5 million
  • 2013-14 — $11.5 million
  • 2014-15 — $11.5 million
  • 2015-16 — $11.5 million
  • 2016-17 — $11.5 million
  • 2017-18 — $10.5 million
  • 2018-19 — $8.5 million
  • 2019-20 — $6.5 milliom
  • 2020-21 — $3.5 million
  • 2021-22 —$750,000
  • 2022-23 — $550,000
  • 2023-24 — $550,000
  • 2024-25 — $550,000
  • 2025-26 — $550,000
  • 2026-27 — $550,000

New Jersey would only have been charged with an annual salary-cap hit of $6 million per season because of the low-end numbers of Kovalchuk's contract in the final years.

Lamoriello acquired Kovalchuk on Feb. 4, along with defenceman Anssi Salmela from the Atlanta Thrashers, for defenceman Johnny Oduya, forward Niclas Bergfors, junior prospect Patrice Cormier and a first-round draft pick.

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.

The Russian has already turned down a pair of offers from Atlanta — a seven-year deal worth $70 million and a $101-million pact over 12 seasons — in the hope of landing a long-term contract worth $11 million annually.

While Kovalchuk was free-agent target of several teams, the Devils and Los Angeles Kings were the frontrunners.

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

The Russian KHL league was also pursuing Kovalchuk.

The contract would've exceeded the 15-year deal New York Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro received in 2006.

A message left with the NHL Players' Association was not immediately returned.

With files from The Associated Press