Ilya Kovalchuk's future is now in the hands of arbitrator Richard Bloch.
The two-day arbitration hearing between the National Hockey League and its players' association over the validity of the 17-year, $102-million contract Kovalchuk signed recently with the New Jersey Devils wrapped up Thursday in Boston.
Bloch, a Washington-based arbitrator who has previously been used in the same capacity by the NHL, has until Monday to render a decision and it's not expected it will be made public before then. He listened to arguments from the NHL and NHLPA during the hearing, which Kovalchuk reportedly attended.
The NHL rejected Kovalchuk's contract two weeks ago, arguing it was an attempt to circumvent the league's salary cap rules.
The deal was front-loaded, paying the 27-year-old Russian forward $95 million in the first 10 years and an average of $1 million a season for the last seven years. As a result, the extra years would reduce the Devils'
overall cap hit, something the NHL said was an attempt to circumvent salary cap provisions in the collective bargaining agreement.
Bloch's decision will be binding. If he gives the thumbs up on the contract, the NHL must immediately accept it. If he sides with the NHL and voids the deal, Kovalchuk will again be an unrestricted free agent.
Last season Kovalchuk made $7.5 million playing for the Devils and Atlanta Thrashers. He had 41 goals and 44 assists in 76 games.
He has averaged more than a point per game 642 points in 621 games since entering the NHL in 2001-02.