Kovalchuk contract verdict delayed

Even with a supposedly firm deadline in sight today, the Ilya Kovalchuk contract odyssey drags on.

The NHL and the NHL Players Association have agreed to extend Wednesday's 5 p.m. deadline for the league to rule on the new contract's validity to the same time on Friday.

The existing collective bargaining agreement allows the NHL five days to review and either register or decline player contracts. If the league did not act prior to that deadline, the CBA states the contract would automatically be allowed. Or ...

Apparently there's a third option. Both the league and the NHLPA agreed to delay the ruling until the end of the week, meaning the story will continue to hold everyone's rapt attention until then. (Okay, maybe not everyone's.)

Reasons for the delay were not immediately clear. The Bergen Record's Tom Gulitti reported that the issue extended beyond the Devils' pact with Kovalchuk, lending fuel to rumors that the league will use this current debate as a platform to confront existing long-term contracts that could be construed as attempts to circumvent the salary cap. If that were the case however, the NHLPA may not have been so keen to extend the deadline. Better one disgruntled player than a handful, right?

Another possible reason for the NHLPA playing along is that Kovalchuk's contract was close to meeting NHL approval, but not completely acceptable to the league. Rather than striking down a second contract, the two parties can now continue to haggle over what should be permissible in career-length contracts such as this one and amend the existing deal. (UPDATE: Gulitti tweets that this is not what is happening now. Devils GM Lou Lamoriello confirmed it to Gulitti as well. However, TSN's Darren Dreger reports that the NHL and NHLPA may be considering a rule change with regard to long-term contracts.)

Lamoriello issued a statement shortly after the extension announcement, noting that the team remains "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. 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." He added, "We will have no further comment until the decision is rendered."

We'll see if the fat lady will sing on Friday.