NHLPA faces 5PM deadline to file a grievance regarding Ilya Kovalchuk's contract

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Thumbnail image for kovalchukpresser3.jpgOn Monday July 19, it seemed like a lengthy hockey nightmare was over. That day seemingly marked the end of the Ilya Kovalchuk Holding Pattern Era and the continuation of the Kovalchuk-Devils pact. Of course, you should know that the league said “hold on a second” and rejected his contract at this point.

Today marks the deadline for the NHL Players Association to file a grievance on Kovalchuk’s behalf. Tom Gulitti of the Devils-oriented Fire & Ice blog has the details.

The NHL Players’ Association has until 5 p.m. Monday to file a grievance on behalf of Ilya Kovalchuk for the NHL rejecting his 17-year, $102 million contract with the Devils for salary cap circumvention.

All indications are that the NHLPA will file the grievance before Monday’s deadline after its lawyers conducted a thorough study of the facts, including interviewing all the parties involved in the contract negotiations. The delay the last two days was likely due to the union waiting through the weekend before officially filing the paperwork.

After the grievance is filed, the NHL and the NHLPA must hire a “system” arbitrator to rule on the case. Both sides must agree on the arbitrator. I was among those who speculated that the process could take weeks, but the NHLPA will want to expedite the search so that Kovalchuk will not be in limbo too much longer as far as where he will play in 2010-11. So, if the NHL drags its feet, it will be quite obvious.

Keep in mind that the league and the NHLPA must agree on an independent arbitrator, a process some expect to take weeks. Once that is finally settled upon, the arbitrator has two days (48 hours) to rule on the validity of the contract.

Need a quick review of the possible scenarios? Consider this your Ilya Kovalchuk “Choose your own adventure” game.

1. The arbitrator upholds the rejection – Kovalchuk would become an unrestricted free agent again, giving him the choice of restructuring his contract with the Devils or going with a different team. Both the Kings and – according to Gulitti – the KHL have expressed interest in Kovalchuk if he went back on the market.

2. The arbitrator validates the contract – the league would be forced to approve the contract right away.

3. The Devils could restructure the original contract before the grievance, but Gulitti and many others say that probably won’t happen.

4. If the NHLPA doesn’t file a grievance, then Kovalchuk would become an unrestricted free agent again.

OK, so those are the possibilities. What does this mean to you? Well, if you’re bored out of your mind sitting in a cubicle (or a basement or your evil lair/mansion), then you can count on an official word about a grievance – or lack thereof – today. We’ll be on top of it today at PHT.

Coyotes fire assistant coach Newell Brown

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The Arizona Coyotes have parted ways with some personnel.

Assistant coach Newell Brown has been fired, along with Doug Soetaert, who was the general manager of their AHL affiliate in Tuscon.

Pro scouts David MacLean and Jim Roque won’t be back either. Their contracts will not be renewed.

“I’d like to thank Newell, Doug, David and Jim for their contributions to the club,” said GM John Chayka. “They are all good people but we believe these changes are necessary in order to improve our organization. We wish them the best in the future.”

A longtime NHL assistant coach, Brown is perhaps the most prominent of the four men. He joined the Coyotes in the summer of 2013 and received high praise for his work with their power play.

But Arizona’s power play slipped to 26th this past season, converting at a rate of just 16.2 percent.

As for Soetaert, he was only named GM of the Roadrunners last summer. The former NHL goalie had previously been a scout.

Plenty of seats available for tonight’s game in Ottawa

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The Ottawa Senators say they’re still expecting a full house, but Ticketmaster’s website shows plenty of available seats for tonight’s second-round opener with the New York Rangers.

From the Ottawa Citizen:

Many of the available tickets for Thursday’s game were in the corners of the upper bowl, seats that carry a $96 price tag.

The Senators sold out all three games in the opening round of the playoffs against Boston. Game 1 drew a crowd of 18,702, while 18,629 showed up for Game 2 and 19,209 were in the seats for Game 5.

Attendance has been an issue in Ottawa — or, more specifically, suburban Kanata — all season, to the point owner Eugene Melnyk expressed great frustration with the lack of sellouts at Canadian Tire Centre.

Poor attendance also led to friction behind the scenes. At least, it sure sounded that way in the lawsuit that was filed against the team by its former chief marketing officer.

Poor attendance is why the Sens are trying to get a new downtown arena built. They believe that a more central location is the key to bigger crowds.

But regardless of the arena’s location, it won’t be a good look if there are empty seats tonight. This is the playoffs, and the Senators are one of eight remaining teams in the hunt for the Stanley Cup. The building should be full.

Related: Melnyk thinks Sens can make deep playoff run

McPhee won’t bring Stanley, Vegas’ lucky golden rooster, to draft lottery

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There’s no way any lede I write will do this Review-Journal anecdote justice, so yeah, just read it:

[Vegas GM George] McPhee still has his superstitions like any former athlete. But don’t expect him to be rubbing a rabbit’s foot or holding a bunch of 4-leaf clovers in his pocket.

And he decided to leave Stanley the Rooster home rather than try and explain to Canadian Customs officials why the gift given to the team by the Mandarin Oriental back in February during Chinese New Year should be allowed into the country as a good luck prop.

The draft lottery goes Saturday in Toronto, at 7:30 p.m. ET. Vegas won’t drop any lower than sixth and has a 10.3 percent shot at the No. 1 overall pick, behind Colorado (18 percent) and Vancouver (12.1 percent). Arizona also has a 10.3 percent chance at getting top spot.

Hagelin making ‘significant steps’ in returning to Pens lineup

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It’s been nearly six weeks since Carl Hagelin last suited up for the Penguins.

His return sounds like it’s on the horizon.

Hagelin, out since Mar. 10 with a lower-body injury, was deemed “close” to coming back by Pens head coach Mike Sullivan, just ahead of tonight’s Game 1 against Washington.

“[Hagelin] is a day-to-day decision at this point,” Sullivan said. “He took limited contact this morning. The next step, obviously, will be the full contact approach.

“He is certainly making significant steps in the right direction here.”

The speedy Swede missed the final 16 games of the regular season with his ailment, and all five games in Pittsburgh’s opening-round win against the Blue Jackets. The end result was just six goals and 22 points in 61 games played, down from the impressive stretch he had last season after being acquired from Anaheim.

Pittsburgh is hopeful the 28-year-old can rejoin the team, and provide similar production as last year’s playoff run. Hagelin had six goals and 16 points in 24 games en route to hoisting the Stanley Cup.

Hagelin isn’t the only veteran forward that could make his return this season. Earlier this week, the Pens announced winger Chris Kunitz had been cleared for contact, and is available for the Washington series.