The National Hockey League Players' Association filed a grievance on behalf of Ilya Kovalchuk on Monday in hopes of getting his League-rejected 17-year contract restored by an independent arbitrator.
The PA had until 5 p.m. ET Monday to file the grievance.
"The NHLPA has filed a grievance disputing the NHL's rejection of the Standard Player Contract between the New Jersey Devils and Ilya Kovalchuk," NHLPA spokesperson Jonathan Weatherdon wrote in a statement released just before 1:30 p.m. ET. "Under the terms of the CBA, the NHLPA and Mr. Kovalchuk are entitled to an expedited resolution of this matter. The NHLPA will have no further comment until this matter has been resolved by an Arbitrator."
"The grievance is not surprising or unexpected. We welcome the opportunity to establish our position before the arbitrator," NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told NHL.com.
The NHL last week rejected the reported $102 million contract Kovalchuk signed with the Devils on the grounds that it circumvented the collective bargaining agreement.
The contract is reportedly front-loaded with salary so the cap hit would be $6 million even though Kovalchuk would be making $98.5 million over the first 11 years of the deal and only $550,000 per season for the last five years of the contract, when he'll be 39-44 years old.
The next step in the process is finding an arbitrator to rule on the grievance. The NHL and the PA must agree on the hiring of a "system" arbitrator. How long that process will take is still up in the air, but once there is one in place, he or she will have 48 hours to rule on the grievance.
Asked what he views as a feasible timetable to get the contract situation resolved, Daly said there isn't one at this point, "but I don't expect this to drag."
Kovalchuk's status will swing one of two ways once the still to be determined arbitrator hears the case: His contract with the Devils will either be upheld so he can play under it, or he will become an unrestricted free agent again if the arbitrator rules in favor of the NHL.
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