Less than 24 hours after an arbitrator ruled that the NHL acted correctly in voiding Kovalchuk's landmark $102 million contract with New Jersey, team president and general manager Lou Lamoriello said the Devils will continue working to re-sign the high scoring Russian.
Lamoriello refused on Tuesday to comment on the ruling by Richard Bloch. The arbiter ruled Monday that Kovalchuk's 17-year contract, the longest deal in league history, violated the league's salary cap.
"We want Ilya to be a Devil," Lamoriello said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday. "We will do everything possible to achieve that."
Lamoriello said the Devils renewed talks with Kovalchuk after Bloch's decision was announced around 5:45 p.m. EDT on Monday. He would not get into specifics.
Jay Grossman, Kovalchuk's agent, did not return two telephone messages left by The AP and one e-mail sent to him.
Kovalchuk was the NHL's top free agent this year with 338 goals in 642 career games.
What is obvious is that the Devils will have to take a bigger cap hit if they reach a new and probably shorter deal in terms of duration with the 27-year-old Kovalchuk.
Under the deal that was voided by the league, Kovalchuk would have only counted for $6 million annually against the cap. The lower cap value resulted because he would have been paid just $550,000 in each of the last five years of the contract.
If he re-signs with New Jersey, there is a chance the team might have to move some players to make room for him.
Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek did not immediately return a telephone call left by The AP on Tuesday seeking comment.