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Greg Wyshynski

Devils reopen Kovalchuk contract talks after arbitration loss

Greg Wyshynski
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The NHL and NHLPA have both released statements regarding arbitrator Richard Bloch's decision in favor of the league in its rejection of Ilya Kovalchuk's(notes) 17-year, $102 million contract.

Now the New Jersey Devils have issued one from President/GM/Ruler-of-All-He-Surveys Lou Lamoriello, and it indicates that Kovalchuk's relationship with the team is anything but severed:

"We have reviewed and respect Arbitrator Bloch's ruling in the Kovalchuk matter.

"We also note and appreciate his finding that nothing in his opinion should be read as suggesting that either the club or Ilya Kovalchuk operated in bad faith or on the basis of any assumption other than that the Standard Player Contract was fully compliant with the CBA. That has been our consistent position throughout.

"While we do not currently have a contract with Ilya Kovalchuk, discussions have resumed and we are hopeful that a contract will be reached that meets with the principles in Arbitrator Bloch's award and the NHL's approval."

Without Kovalchuk's $6 million cap hit, the Devils have $3,698,334 in space with 20 players under contract, via Cap Geek. Obviously, should the two sides agree on Marian Hossa's(notes) salary structure a contract more amendable to the NHL's tastes for quasi-legal cap circumvention, the Devils still have moves to make to clear the mandatory space.

Meanwhile, excerpts from Bloch's ruling are leaking like tear ducts in Newark, with Craig Custance of The Sporting News providing some choice cuts:

"Kovalchuk is 27 years old, and the agreement contemplates his playing until just short of his 44th birthday. That is not impossible, but it is, at the least, markedly rare. Currently, only one player in the League has played past 43 and, over the past 20 years only 6 of some 3,400 players have played to 42...."

So, again: If it was 16 years and 43 years old ... well, that's feasible, right? And that sort of fanciful projection appears to have been the burden of proof the NHL established to uphold the rejection.

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