Report: NHL shoots down another Kovalchuk contract with Devils

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for kovalchuklouvanderbeek.jpgIt turns out the Ilya Kovalchuk situation just grows stranger and more frustrating for he and the New Jersey Devils. We told you the other day that Kovalchuk, his agent Jay Grossman, Devils GM Lou Lamoriello and Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek were at the NHL offices in Manhattan leading to speculation that a new contract would be imminent. As it turns out, a new contract was drawn up but the NHL apparently has shot it down. The New York Post’s Mark Everson has the details.

The Devils’ hopes to sign Ilya Kovalchuk have been confounded again, denied encouragement from the NHL on their second try at a contract, The Post has learned.

Now, the NHL is risking being the culprit if one of its most talented players leaves for Russia, as time becomes a factor in Kovalchuk’s decision where to play.

The stakes are simple and huge as the Devils and Kovalchuk resume trying to satisfy themselves and the league. That task became even more difficult yesterday as the NHL continued its hard line by criticizing the framework of a deal the Devils and Kovalchuk’s camp optimistically presented for comment Monday.

This was a fear I had after the first Kovalchuk contract was denied by the league and arbitrator Richard Bloch upheld the NHL’s decision. The fear being that now that the league got their way they’d find a way to keep the most desirable free agent the league has seen in the cap era from blowing the lid off of how a superstar player gets paid in such a restrictive time. Now, while the league snoops around at other players’ contracts, it’s up to Lamoriello, Kovalchuk and Grossman to feel their way around blindly without much guidance from the league to find a deal that works.

While the possibility of Kovalchuk bolting to Russia is slim and virtually non-existent, it’s a threat nonetheless, especially if Kovalchuk grows weary of being jerked around by the NHL. Instead, there’s an invisible line in the sand between what’s questionable (contracts like those of what Marian Hossa and Marc Savard have) and what’s OK (Vincent Lecavalier’s deal). The differences between some of those deals are slim which makes the process that Kovalchuk and the NHL are going through that much more frustrating. It will be fascinating to see how this finally all plays out.