Kovalchuk's epic contract rejected by NHL

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly says the 17-year, $102-million US deal Ilya Kovalchuk signed with the New Jersey Devils is being rejected because it circumvents the league's salary cap.

It's official: Ilya Kovalchuk's 17-year, $102-million US contract with the New Jersey Devils will not see the light of day.

That is, if the NHL has its way.

The deal agreed to Monday is being rejected because it violates the NHL's salary cap rules, deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Wednesday, putting an end to the proposal for the NHL's longest-ever contract for a player.

"The contract has been rejected by the league as a circumvention of the collective bargaining agreement," Daly said in a statement, confirming media reports from a day earlier.

The 27-year-old Russian winger was slated to earn $95 million over the first decade of the contract and $7 million over the final seven years.

The players' association union could step in, however. It has five business days to file a grievance on behalf of Kovalchuk, at which point an arbitrator would have 48 hours to make a final ruling.

"The NHLPA is currently analyzing the basis upon which the NHL rejected the contract between the New Jersey Devils and Ilya Kovalchuk," union spokesman Jonathan Weatherdon said in a statement. "We are evaluating the options available to us under the terms established in the CBA."

Daly says the Devils, Kovalchuk and the players' association still have several options if they decide to rework the deal.

Until then, "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," Daly said.

Low-end numbers in final years

While the deputy commissioner wouldn't elaborate on the details of the NHL's reasons for rejecting the contract, several reports say it was deemed illegal because of the low-end salary cap hit the Devils would take during the 17 years of the deal.

Sources said neither Kovalchuk nor the Devils believed he would play to the end of the contract when he is 44 years old.

Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello says his club did nothing wrong.

"We are extremely disappointed that the NHL has decided to reject the contract of Ilya Kovalchuk," he said in a statement. "The contract complies with the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

"We will have no further comment until the process outlined in the CBA is complete."

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. Kovalchuk was slated to make just $550,000 per season between the 2022-23 and 2026-27 campaigns.

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

He has already turned down two offers from Atlanta -- a seven-year deal worth $70 million and a $101-million pact over 12 seasons.

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

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

The Russian KHL league was also pursuing Kovalchuk.

The contract would have exceeded the 15-year deal New York Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro signed in 2006.