Devils keep their hopes up

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:35 AM ET

Will Ilya Kovalchuk be half-dressed in the stands on opening night Oct. 8, awaiting contractual clearance by the National Hockey League to play for the Devils?

Or, will he be on a plane to Russia long before then, fed up with the delays in approving his deal?

A deadline that was to have settled the latest $100-million US pact submitted by New Jersey to the NHL, has now been extended to 5 p.m., on Friday. The league remains concerned by the length of the pact -- 15 years and front-loaded to relieve salary cap constraints to sign their young guns. Yet, the Devils can't alter the deal that's now under review.

"We're not discouraged," Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello told the Newark Star Ledger on Wednesday evening. "They've decided to extend it. They can make a decision before, but the end line is Friday. Both sides agreed to the extension and I'm sure there is a reason."

If rejected by the league, the NHLPA has five days to file what would be its second grievance since this process began last month. Waiting in the wings is KHL president and SKA St. Petersburg owner Alexander Medvedev, who has been in constant contact with Kovalchuk's agent, Jay Grossman. TSN reports that Kovalchuk will play at least a full season for the KHL in his homeland if he goes there.

Under the terms of the second Devils deal, Kovalchuk's salary would start at $6 million this year, peak at $11.8 million in 2016-17 and drop to $4 million in the final season when he's 42 years old.

CARD SHARKS

A rookie wants to look a little battle-hardened for his first NHL hockey card photo shoot, but Tyler Seguin showed up with a bonus bruise on Wednesday .

The second overall selection this year, the Boston Bruins hopeful was sporting a small facial scar (he thinks came from the stick of summer training buddy Mike Cammalleri) when he arrived at the MasterCard Centre with 22 other top draft picks for the photo shoot with Upper Deck and Panini America.

"All accidental," Seguin assured, lest people think he's already jumped into the Montreal-Boston rivalry with zest. "It just got under my visor."

Seguin, No. 1 pick Taylor Hall and Toronto's 2009 first- rounder Nazem Kadri are among those hoping to break in with their respective teams next month, so their first cards would be all the more meaningful to themselves and to collectors.

"A lot of people are certainly expecting me to make the team and so am I," said Hall. "But until I play that 10th game (meaning the Oilers commit to using up a year of his contract), nothing's for sure.

"I don't want to just make the team, I want to be a big contributor.."

Neck-and-neck with Hall in the scouting rankings throughout their final year of junior in the OHL, Seguin will face significantly less attention on a deep Boston team, whereas Hall is seen as the last place Oilers' saviour.

"I really want to earn my spot," Seguin said. "But I'm looking at it more as fun and opportunity than pressure. The only expectation I have is that everyone will be treated equally in camp."

Seguin had better get used to lots of media interest when visisting Toronto. Every trip the Bs make will be a reminder to Leaf fans that he was taken with one of the Phil Kessel picks and that further success by his team against the Leafs this season could conceivably give Boston another high choice in 2011.

"That (attention) would be great, because all my friends and family live in Toronto," Seguin agreed. "But I can't really think of that (draft pick) stuff right now. I have too many steps ahead of me before I can think of that."

While Los Angeles Kings' prospect Brayden Schenn was posing on one rink, brother Luke Schenn was on an adjoining pad working out with the Leafs. Brayden is staying at Luke's house this week, though talk of the Leafs trading for Brayden has tailed off this summer.

"That's not our job to worry about things like that," Brayden said. "But there's a (Leafs-Kings) game in L.A on Jan. 10 and hopefully a meeting happens."

ICE CHIPS

A busy Wednesday in San Jose where the goalie who helped eliminate the Sharks from the playoffs last spring is poised to come aboard. Reports have jettisoned Cup-winning Chicago Blackhawks netminder Antti Niemi about to sign a one-year, $2-million deal. The Sharks lost Evgeni Nabokov after the season when he elected to play in the KHL and were going to rely on the spotty Antero Niittymaki. Earlier in the day, long-time Sharks' president Greg Jamison stepped down after 14 years in the position ... The Lightning say that defenceman Paul Ranger will not be at camp. He left the club for personal reasons almost a year ago, but is now without a deal and must be signed by Dec. 1 ... Winger Bill Guerin, cut by the Pittsburgh Penguins for cap reasons, is skating with the rival Flyers in an unofficial capacity.

LANCE.HORNBY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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