What happens when a team expected to make some noise in the Stanley Cup Playoffs instead goes quietly in a third consecutive opening-round upset?
Well, for starters, it's time to buck the trend.
That's precisely what Devils owners Jeff Vanderbeek and Mike Gilfillan and General Manager Lou Lamoriello thought they had done when they signed the biggest free agent prize available, Ilya Kovalchuk
, to the largest contract in franchise history--17 years and $102 million. But less than eight hours after the Devils celebrated the agreement to keep Kovalchuk in New Jersey, the NHL rejected the agreement. Arbitrator Richard Bloch upheld that decision 20 days later, ruling the deal was a circumvention of the salary cap and collective bargaining agreement.
The sticking point was the fact Kovalchuk's deal was front-loaded to the point the skilled Russian would receive all but $4 million of the total value of the deal over the first 11 seasons. As it stands now, Kovalchuk is again an unrestricted free agent, but Lamoriello is hoping to rework a new deal that will comply with the CBA.