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NHL reviewing new Kovalchuk contract

Free agent winger Ilya Kovalchuk announced his contract

Free agent winger Ilya Kovalchuk announced his contract renewal with the Devils, Monday. (July 26, 2010) Credit: AP

The summer cold war between Ilya Kovalchuk and the NHL appears close to being resolved - one way or another.

NHL executives on Friday began reviewing a revised contract forged between the Devils and the Russian sniper, whose initial 17-year, $102-million proposal was rejected by the league July 20 hours after a celebratory news conference at the Prudential Center. It was deemed to circumvent the salary cap, a decision upheld by an arbitrator.

The league has until Tuesday to approve or reject the latest contract, which, sources said, is for $100 million over 15 years, a cap hit of about $6.66 million.

If the NHL nixes this version, Kovalchuk - who twice has scored 52 goals in a season - could bolt for SKA St. Petersburg of Russia's KHL, which has a higher pending offer. Or the NHLPA could appeal for another arbitration.

The initial front-loaded pact - the longest in league history - carried an average annual cap hit of $6 million because the final five years would have drastically reduced the winger's salary to $550,000. The NHLPA filed a grievance July 26 and arbitrator Richard Bloch backed the league's decision Aug. 9.

Since then, Kovalchuk's agent, Jay Grossman, and the Devils' top executives, chairman Jeffrey Vanderbeek and general manager Lou Lamoriello, have reviewed several proposed frameworks with the league. The current proposal was said to have addressed the questions.

If the deal is approved, the Devils will have to move some roster players in waivers or trades before the season to fit the contract under the $59.4-million cap.

Kovalchuk, 27, who has been training in Russia, was acquired by the Devils from the Atlanta Thrashers on Feb. 4. He had 10 goals and 17 assists in 27 games with the Devils.

New York Sports