There's light at the end of the tunnel in the Ilya Kovalchuk saga... or something.
After the NHL rejected his 17-year contract with the Devils last week on grounds that it circumvented the collective bargaining agreement, the Players Association grieved the decision, an action which forces the parties to go before an arbitrator to sort things out.
In line with Section 48.5 (a) of the CBA, a system arbitrator has now been selected and a hearing date, either next Monday or Tuesday, has been set. Tom Gulitti, Devils writer at The Bergen Record, says that the hearing will take two days and that a decision will come down no more than 48 hours later.
From what I’ve been told, the system arbitrator will mostly likely only rule whether the NHL’s rejection of the contract was valid or not. If the arbitrator rules that the contract was a circumvention of the CBA and the salary cap, then Kovalchuk will become an unrestricted free agent again. If the arbitrator rules that the contract does comply with the CBA, then the NHL must approve and register the contract.
According to the CBA, the system arbitrator would also have the option of reworking the contract if he decides it is a circumvention of the CBA—depending upon the reason it is a circumvention. (The team and the player would then have three days to agree upon a different contract that complies with the CBA, if they chose) The NHL apparently cited more than one reason for rejecting the contract in the rejection letter and that could play into that option.