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2010 NHL free agency: Devils sign Ilya Kovalchuk (For real this time)

Sep 4, 2010, 8:21 AM EDT

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for kovalchukpresser3.jpgAfter a night and early morning of pushing back deadlines, we can now say it’s official. Ilya Kovalchuk is once again a member of the New Jersey Devils. Kovalchuk’s 15-year, $100 million contract was registered and approved by the NHL. Meanwhile, the NHL and NHLPA came together on an agreement to amend the collective bargaining agreement to allow Kovalchuk’s contract to be approved, and in effect grandfathering in the contracts of Roberto Luongo, Chris Pronger, Marian Hossa and Marc Savard. Both the NHL and NHLPA speak out on their part in the agreement.

“We’re pleased to be able to establish clearly-defined rules for these types of contracts going forward and just as happy we can turn the page on uncertainties relating to several other existing contracts,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said. “From start to finish of this multi-week process we were able to work closely and cooperatively with representatives of the Players’ Association, who shared our belief that the creation of definitive rules and guidelines in this area would be beneficial to everyone – Clubs and players alike.”

“We are pleased to finalize an agreement which ends the League’s circumvention investigations and also establishes rules on long-term contracts that will provide players, their certified agents and general managers clarity for the negotiation of new contracts,” said Roland Lee, Director of Salary Cap/Marketplace & Associate Counsel for the NHLPA. “Turning the page on this process is something that will benefit all parties involved.”

As for the details of their agreement, we laid them out for here in detail last night and encourage you to check out that  post to get the full explanation on how things break down. To sum it up as best as we can in a few words, if you’re going to go long-term on a contract from now on, you better be absolutely sure you want to have that player if the deal goes past their 35th birthday if you want to get creative with money. If you want the contract to go beyond their 41st birthday, you’re paying up for the value of that contract in the final years no matter what at whatever amount is thrown down.

This tenuous peace between the NHL and NHLPA could be a signal that times will be extra difficult in 2012 when the collective bargaining agreement ends, or it could be a sign that both sides are willing to work amiably and deep into the night to get something they each want to see taken care of, finished. Either way, it’s a landmark moment and one that people will be pointing to in a couple years.

As for the actual hockey side of the details here, Kovalchuk’s signing in New Jersey means that some roster moves are going to accompany them in New Jersey. Kovalchuk’s deal puts the Devils about $3.1 million over the salary cap. Candidates that could be moved include the likes of Dainius Zubrus, Bryce Salvador, and Brian Rolston. If you’re thinking Jamie Langenbrunner or Travis Zajac will get moved, you might be delusional. Patrick Elias is also a name of some intrigue as well, but given his legacy in New Jersey it doesn’t seem at all likely.

For the Devils, lineup-wise, this makes them a very dangerous and talented offensive team. With John MacLean now at the helm and the Devils promising a more offensive style of game (we’ll wait and see on that) there’s potential for New Jersey to be one of the most exciting teams to watch in the NHL now. Having Kovalchuk surrounded by Zach Parise, Elias, Zajac, and Jason Arnott the potential is sky-high. Whether or not the Devils loosen things up a bit with Jacques Lemaire now gone remains to be seen, but hope is there and very much alive. This Devils team is going to be a handful and a half to deal with this season for opponents.

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