For Ilya Kovalchuk(notes), his representatives, the New Jersey Devils and the NHL, time is running out. Weeks after Kovalchuk's 17-year, $102 million contract was rejected by the NHL, a difficult decision for the free-agent winger could come in the next 24-48 hours.
Sources close to Kovalchuk have told us that if the NHL does not approve any of the proposals submitted informally by the Devils, Kovalchuk may decide to play in the KHL next season.
Wednesday, KHL President Alexander Medvedev announced at the World Hockey Summit that he received a call from Kovalchuk's camp. Thursday morning, Kovalchuk's Russian agent Yuri Nikolaev confirmed to Pavel Lysenkov of Sovetsky Sport that he indeed spoke with KHL's SKA. While Nikolaev refused to comment further, he did say that Friday is the day when the decision is made.
What's the obstacle between the NHL and Kovalchuk's side of the table? A source with knowledge of the negotiation told us that the Devils and Kovalchuk have submitted numerous proposals -- which were flexible in terms of player age, the length of the contract and allocation of the contract amount -- to the league.
The latest rejection, which came on Tuesday, dealt with the age of the player at the end of the contract.
Is the KHL talk a negotiation ploy? What about establishing a timetable for Kovalchuk's decision? It's possible. But know that all three sides continue tireless work on getting a deal done: More calls were scheduled between the NHL, the Devils and Kovalchuk's representation Thursday afternoon to continue developing an acceptable framework for a contract.
But, nevertheless, the time is certainly running out.