Kovy deadline delayed, issues discussed

The National Hockey League and its Players’ Association will spend the next couple of days trying to come to an agreement on the parameters of long-term contracts in regards to length of service, sources tell Sportsnet.

In an email to Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos, one source said that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA advisor Donald Fehr may be involved as the two sides work to solve the contract conundrum, saying: “Don’t rule out a possible resolution between Bettman and Fehr moving forward.” Both will be very much kept in the loop but the next 48 hours comes down to high-priced NHL/PA lawyers trying to find common ground.

Both sides agree that it would serve everyone if general managers, agents and players know what is an acceptable length of term for future deals.

This comes on the heels of the two sides agreeing to push back the deadline for the decision on the second Ilya Kovalchuk contract proposal that was presented to the NHL by the New Jersey Devils last Friday. The league and NHLPA announced Wednesday afternoon that the deadline for a ruling has been extended to 5 p.m. ET on Friday.

The second contract proposal, as first reported by Kypreos, is said to be a 15-year deal worth $100 million. The first contract for $102 million over 17 years was turned down by the NHL and subsequently by arbitrator Richard Bloch, who felt the front-end loaded deal went against the spirit of the collective bargaining agreement.

Another source has told sportsnet.ca that the 15-year contract for Kovalchuk, which would take him to age 42, is a sticking point for the NHL. Even though the Devils significantly increased the amount of money the Russian scoring ace would be paid at the end of the contract.

“We remain confident that the terms of this contract comply, in every respect, with the CBA and meet both the NHL’s concerns and the principles of Arbitrator Bloch’s decision,” Devils GM Lou Lamiorello said Wednesday in a release. “We remain optimistic that this extension will result in an approval of the contract and that Ilya Kovalchuk will remain a valuable member of the Devils for the balance of his career.”

As Kypreos first reported, the pending deal increased the average salary over the final three years to $2.6 million from the $550,000 average under the original deal that was rejected by the league in July. The breakdown of the latest contract is: 2010-11: $6 million; 2011-12: $6 million; 2012-13: $11 million; 2013-14: $11.3 million; 2014-15: $11.3 million; 2015-16: $11.6 million; 2016-17: $11.8 million; 2017-18: $10 million; 2018-19: $7 million; 2019-20: $4 million; 2020-21: $1 million; 2021-22: $1 million; 2022-23: $1 million; 2023-24: $3 million; 2024-25: $4 million.

Kovalchuk, 27, has 338 goals and 304 assists in 642 career games. He had 41 goals and 44 assists last season. New Jersey traded him to Atlanta in February.

Fehr, who previously led the players union in Major League Baseball, has been working for the NHLPA as an unpaid advisor, but is expected to assume the role of executive director in the near future.

– With files from THE CANADIAN PRESS