The NHL Players Association filed a grievance Monday over the league's rejection of Ilya Kovalchuk's 17-year contract with the Devils. An arbitrator will decide if the NHL's decision to reject Kovalchuk's $102-million deal was allowable under the collective-bargaining agreement.
"Under the terms of the CBA, the NHLPA and Mr. Kovalchuk are entitled to an expedited resolution of this matter," the NHLPA said in a statement.
The two sides must agree on an arbitrator, and there is no official timetable for that. Once one is selected, the arbitrator has 48 hours to rule on the grievance.
"The grievance is not surprising or unexpected. We welcome the opportunity to establish our position before the arbitrator," deputy commissioner Bill Daly told NHL.com. "I don't expect [the process] to drag."
Kovalchuk signed the longest contract in NHL history on July 19, one that will pay him $11.5 million a year from 2012-17 and $550,000 a year from 2022-27, the last five years of the deal.
The NHL has approved similar contracts in the past for Flames goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff, Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo and Hawks forward Marian Hossa, among others, that have steep drops in salary in the final years. All of those were approved. There is no language in the CBA that prohibits any contract length.
If the league wins the grievance, Kovalchuk becomes an unrestricted free agent again.