Last night an arbitrator voided the 17-year, $102 million deal that Kovalchuk signed with the New Jersey Devils on the grounds that it was a "retirement" deal and circumvented the collective bargaining agreement. The deal would have paid Kovalchuk $95 million over the first 10 years and then $550,000/year for the remainder of the term. The contract wouldn't have expired until Kovalchuk was 44 years old. The arbitrator found that the rarity of players playing until they are 44 years old coupled with the huge discrepancy in yearly salaries was enough to void the deal. Lots of links to reaction and breakdown by Burnside and Puck Daddy.
This is a huge victory for the NHL. Yes, they should never have allowed the loopholes of these extra long contracts in the CBA, but they did take a stand when it got out of hand. We applaud the arbitrator's ruling and hope it puts an end to the smugness of the many GM's who thought they were so smart to sign deals like this.
As for Kovalchuk, the guess here is that he re-signs a short deal with New Jersey. The other rumor is Los Angeles, but Kings brought in Ponikarovsky, who while not even 20% the player Kovalchuk is, does eat up $3 million of their cap. And if Kovalchuk ends up back in Russia, so be it. Maybe that's his ultimate destiny anyway.