Kovalchuk's $102 million deal headed to arbitration

TORONTO (Reuters) - Ilya Kovalchuk's 17-year, $102 million contract with the New Jersey Devils will go to arbitration after the NHL Players Association (NHLPA) filed a grievance against the league on Monday for rejecting the deal.

The NHL has refused to approve the contract, claiming it is an attempt by the Devils to circumvent the league's salary cap.

"The NHLPA has filed a grievance disputing the NHL's rejection of the standard player contract between the New Jersey Devils and Ilya Kovalchuk," the NHLPA said in a statement.

The high-scoring Russian winger was scheduled to earn $95 million over the first 10 years of the contract and then $7 million over the last seven.

The final five-years of the deal have Kovalchuk scheduled to earn a modest $550,000, reducing the annual salary cap hit to the Devils to $6 million.

(Writing by Steve Keating in Toronto. editing by Steve Ginsburg, thomsonreuters.com; +1 248-605-1131; Reuters Messaging: steve.keating.reuters.com@reuters.net For the new Reuters sports blog Left Field go to: http://blogs.reuters.com/sport/))

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