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Bettman: No new Kovalchuk contract submitted yet

by Shawn P. Roarke
TORONTO -- NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on Wednesday denied published reports that the League had rejected a second attempt by the New Jersey Devils to get star free agent Ilya Kovalchuk under contract.

Earlier this month, the Devils' initial contract offer to Kovalchuk, a 17-year deal, was ruled null and void as an attempt at salary-cap circumvention by arbitrator Richard Bloch.

"In order for a contract to be rejected, there would have to be a signed contract submitted," Bettman said after speaking at the Molson World Hockey Summit here. "There has not been a signed contract submitted."

But Bettman said that does not mean the Devils and the League have not been in contact about Kovalchuk's contract issues since the ruling in early August.

In fact, Bill Daly, NHL Deputy Commissioner, said Tuesday the sides had met that morning to discuss some issues.

"In order for a contract to be rejected, there would have to be a signed contract submitted. There has not been a signed contract submitted."
-- NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman

"I don't know if there has been any such cap advice or what the specifics of it might be," Bettman said. "I would not comment on it anyway because that is a dialogue we regularly have with our clubs."

The head of the Kontinental Hockey League, Alexander Medveded, made waves later Wednesday afternoon when he said he planned to talk to Kovalchuk's agent, Jay Grossman, in the wake of the news reports on Kovalchuk's contract.

Medveded was a panelist in the afternoon session at the summit

"Ilya knows our proposal is still on the table," said Medveded, who also owns SKA St. Petersburg, which offered to sign Kovalchuk in July.

Daly had little reaction to the fact the KHL was still in the running for Kovalchuk, who is once again an unrestricted free agent after Bloch's ruling.

In fact, Daly said he believes Kovalchuk's preference is to remain in the NHL.

"Obviously he's a great player, and we want him playing in the National Hockey League, and I believe he wants to play in the National Hockey League," Daly said.

"During our arbitration on the first contract, he said as much. His priority is to play in the National Hockey League. It's the best competition in the world, and he wants to be in the League.

"Having said that, I think it's very, very important to protect our rules and to make decisions based on our rules. If it means losing a player, I'd rather protect our rules than make an exception for an exceptional player."

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