TORONTO – The National Hockey League Players' Association has filed a grievance over the league's rejection of the landmark $102 million contract between Ilya Kovalchuk and the New Jersey Devils.
The league rejected the 17-year deal contract last week, saying the longest contract in league history violated its salary cap.
The union disputed that belief in its grievance Monday. It said that under the collective bargaining agreement, the union and Kovalchuk are entitled to an expedited resolution.
The NHL acknowledged that it has received a copy of the grievance.
"Although there is no defined timetable at this point, we intend to work with the Players' Association to ensure an expeditious resolution of this dispute," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement. "The league looks forward to the opportunity to establish its position before the arbitrator."
Daly said that the league would have not further comment until the issue was resolved.
Kovalchuk's deal was likely rejected because he was to earn $550,000 in each of the last five seasons of the contract that was to run through the 2026-27 season, when he would be 44. He was to earn $98.5 million in the first 11 years of the deal.
Kovalchuk was drafted first overall by the Thrashers in 2001 and has 338 goals and 304 assists in 642 career NHL games. Last season, he had 41 goals and 44 assists. He was traded to New Jersey in February.
By extending Kovalchuk's contract and paying him less money late in the deal, the Devils lowered their salary-cap hit to $6 million annually.
Devils president and general manager Lou Lamoriello said last week that he believed that the contract complied with the terms of the collective bargaining agreement. He also said he would not comment again until the grievance process played out.
Kovalchuk's agent, Jay Grossman, also said last week that he wouldn't comment until the matter is resolved.
Other long-term deals have been signed without incident, though none is as long or tapers as sharply as Kovalchuk's.
Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo has a $63 million, 12-year deal that pays only $7 million over the final four seasons and takes him to age 43. Marian Hossa of the Chicago Blackhawks will be 42 at the end of his $62.8 million, 12-year contract that pays $3.5 million in the last four seasons.
Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen of the Detroit Red Wings and Chris Pronger of the Philadelphia Flyers are among those with similar contracts. In length, the Kovalchuk deal tops New York Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro's 15 years and Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin's 13.