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Kovalchuk contract gets the green light

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils
ALL SMILES: Kovalchuk's deal, which was rejected by the NHL, has been approved by an independent arbitrator.
The wait is over!


The Ilya Kovalchuk contract saga finally ended Monday, when arbitrator Richard Bloch ruled against the National Hockey League’s rejection of the long-term deal.

Bloch’s decision upheld the contract signing and secures Kovalchuk’s status as a Devil for life. The NHL rejected the deal on July 20, just hours after a Prudential Center press welcoming the Russian sniper back to New Jersey.

In a League statement, the contract had been described, “as a circumvention of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.” But the NHL Players’ Association filed a grievance to dispute that rejection on July 26, setting the stage for the arbitration hearing that was held last week in Boston.

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Kovalchuk, 27, is one of the NHL’s most electrifying snipers. A two-time 50-goal scorer, he has tallied 40-or-more in six straight seasons. Since 2001-02, no one has more goals (338) or power-play goals (117, tied with Dany Heatley).

Drafted first overall by Atlanta in 2001, Kovalchuk was acquired by the Devils in a five-player deal on Feb. 4. The eight-year veteran became one of the most coveted unrestricted free agents ever on July 1, before electing to re-sign with New Jersey.

He notched 10 goals, 17 assists in 27 games with New Jersey, finishing the season with 41 goals, 44 assists in 76 games. For his career, he has 338 goals, 304 assists for 642 points in 621 games.

A quick timeline:
Monday, July 19 -
Devils announce they have re-signed Kovalchuk.

Tuesday, July 20 - An afternoon press conference is held at Prudential Center, welcoming Kovalchuk back to New Jersey. Later that day, the NHL announces it has rejected the contract.

Wednesday, July 21 - League issues the following statement: "The contract has been rejected by the League as a circumvention of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Under the CBA, the contract rejection triggers a number of possible next steps that may be elected by any or each of the NHLPA, the Player and/or the Club. In the interim, the player is not entitled to play under the contract, nor is he entitled to any of the rights and benefits that are provided for thereunder. The League will have no further comment on this matter pending further developments."

Devils President/CEO/GM Lou Lamoriello responds with a statement: "We are extremely disappointed that the NHL has decided to reject the contract of Ilya Kovalchuk. The contract complies with the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. We will have no further comment until the process outlined in the CBA is complete."

Monday, July 26 - The NHL Players' Association files a grievance on behalf of Kovalchuk: "The NHLPA has filed a grievance disputing the NHL's rejection of the Standard Player Contract between the New Jersey Devils and Ilya Kovalchuk. 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."

Wednesday, Aug. 4 - The arbitration hearing begins in Boston and is expected to conclude the following day, according to multiple reports. Arbitrator Richard Bloch's ruling needed to be submitted by the close of business on Monday, Aug. 9.

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