The NHL rejected Ilya Kovalchuk's landmark 17-year, $102 million contract with the New Jersey Devils after it was deemed to circumvent the league's salary cap.
Just one day after Kovalchuk and the Devils came to an agreement on the longest contract in NHL history, the league determined that it was illegal, a person familiar with the issues raised told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
The contract was rejected because years of low salary at the end of the contract were added to lower the cap hit. The person added that no side believes Kovalchuk will play the final years of the deal at those terms: $550,000 in each of the last five ending in 2027, when he'll be 44.
The high-scoring Russian was wooed by the Los Angeles Kings, among others, but decided to stay with New Jersey — the team that pried him from the Atlanta Thrashers in February.
He instead cited long-term security for him and his family and the opportunity to win the Stanley Cup with an organization that boasts three titles in 15 seasons.
"If we did not have him here or made that trade there was no chance of him being here — from both sides," Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello said. "I don't think we would've been interested in him as a free agent, nor he in us, because we didn't know enough about him as an individual to make any type of commitment."
Kovalchuk's proposed contract, which runs through the 2026-27 season when he will be 44, tops the 15-year deal goalie Rick DiPietro signed with the New York Islanders, and two-time NHL MVP Alex Ovechkin's 13-year pact with Washington..