As expected, the NHLPA has filed a grievance over Ilya Kovalchuk’s rejected seventeen-year contract, meaning an arbitrator will decide whether it’s a legal pact according to the league’s collective bargaining agreement, or whether Kovalchuk goes back to being a free agent all over again.
The NHL, you’ll recall, claims the Devils are circumventing the cap by front-loading Kovalchuk’s deal and tacking on years at the end — years during which they don’t expect Kovalchuk to be playing — at far lower salaries. Now they’ll try to prove it to an arbitrator: While common sense may say they’re right, nothing in the contract violates anything explicitly spelled out in the CBA, and proving that neither the Devils nor Kovalchuk expect the left-winger to be playing at 44 might not be so easy.
Technically, this should be a quick process: It’s supposed to be settled within 48 hours of the grievance. But the league and the Players Association first have to settle on the arbitrator — reportedly, both sides need to submit a list of three names, then those need to be vetted before one is agreed upon — and then there’s the matter of holding the hearing itself, which could also take more than a day.