The Ilya Kovalchuk saga is dragging into its eighth week now. The Devils are proceeding with business as usual, according to what Lou Lamoriello told The Bergen Record's Tom Gulitti; not completely sure that's the truth, but Lamoriello and the Devils don't seem to be budging enough on their terms to make the NHL happy.

Which leaves the KHL, Russia's pro league that hasn't exactly gotten the NHL quivering with its signings this summer -- Pavol Demitra and Evgeny Nabokov are the two biggest names to jump from the NHL to the KHL, and new Ranger Alex Frolov left a pile of KHL money on the table to sign here.

But the Kovalchuk situation has a time element now; the KHL season begins Sept. 8 and NHL training camps open Sept. 17. If, as KHL president Dmitri Medvedev said during the World Hockey Summit yesterday, Kovalchuk is still sniffing around the KHL, which reportedly has a blank check waiting for him, things would turn ugly very fast on these shores.

Most telling from the Yahoo! story by Nick Cotsonika is this quote from NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly: "It's the best competition in the world, and he wants to be in the League. So we obviously want him playing in the league.

"Having said that, I think it's very, very important to protect our rules and to make decisions based on our rules. If it means losing a player, I'd rather protect our rules than make an exception for an exceptional player."

Daly said as much to me earlier this month, when we talked for this piece on the Kovalchuk contract and the future of the NHL, and other sources told me the same: There will be no more contracts like the ones Marian Hossa, Roberto Luongo and Chris Pronger signed last year.

The NHL is firm on that.

But to lose a star of Kovalchuk's caliber over a loophole left open during a legally agreed-upon bargaining agreement?

That seems to be a terrible starting point for new CBA negotiations, and a blow to a league that needs to be less tone-deaf to what its very dedicated fans want.

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