NEW YORK (Reuters) - The NHL has rejected Russian winger Ilya Kovalchuk’s $102 million, 17-year contract with the New Jersey Devils because it circumvents league rules, deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Wednesday.
Kovalchuk, 27, was scheduled to earn $95 million over the first 10 years of the contract and then $7 million over the last seven. That would result in an annual salary of $6 million.
“The contract has been rejected by the league as a circumvention of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA),” Daly said in a statement, confirming media reports from the previous day of the rejection.
Until the issue is resolved, “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 added.
U.S. and Canadian media reported the league was concerned the contract circumvented the NHL salary cap by artificially lowering the annual average value of the deal.
Daly would not further comment on the reasons for the league’s rejection of the contract, the longest-ever for an NHL player.
He said there were a number of possible next steps by Kovalchuk, the Devils and the NHL Players’ Association (NHLPA) but did not elaborate.
Canada’s The Sports Network (www.TSN.ca) said the team could either re-file the contract or the Players’ Association could file a grievance.
Should the NHLPA file a grievance, an arbitrator would determine the validity of the contract, TSN said.
“The NHLPA is currently analyzing the basis upon which the NHL rejected the contract,” Players’ Association spokesman Jonathan Weatherdon said in a statement.
New Jersey Devils president and general manager Lou Lamoriello said his team was “extremely disappointed” by the NHL’s rejection.
“The contract complies with the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement,” Lamoriello said in a statement. “We will have no further comment until the process outlined in the CBA is complete.”
Kovalchuk’s agent said he would not comment until the matter was resolved.
Reporting by Gene Cherry in Raleigh, North Carolina and Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Steve Ginsburg