Commish denies report of deal rejection

Updated: August 25, 2010, 4:58 PM ET
By Scott Burnside | ESPN.com

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman denied reports that the NHL rejected a second attempt by the New Jersey Devils to bring star winger Ilya Kovalchuk under contract.

Kovalchuk
Kovalchuk

The New York Post reported Wednesday that the league rejected a second proposal from the Devils and Kovalchuk's representatives.

"In order for a contract to be rejected, there would have to be a signed contract submitted," Bettman said Wednesday after addressing the World Hockey Summit. "There has not been a signed contract submitted."

But Bettman did not dispute that there has likely been ongoing dialogue between the Devils and the league over what might be allowed under the salary cap.

"I don't know if there has been such cap advice, what the specifics of it might be, and I wouldn't comment on it anyway because that's a dialogue we regularly have with our clubs," Bettman said.

The head of the Continental Hockey League, Alexander Medvedev, reiterated the KHL would still love to have Kovalchuk.

"Ilya knows that our proposal is still on the table. Actually I got a call from his agent. I will call after discussion with you," Medvedev, who is also president of the St. Petersburg franchise that covets Kovalchuk, told reporters at the World Hockey Summit.

"It could be big news," he joked.

"If he will decide to play in Russia it would be an event. He's 27, top five player in the NHL and if he will decide to come back it will be a breakthrough," said Medvedev.

Deputy commissioner Bill Daly was asked if he's concerned that Kovalchuk might bolt for the KHL because of the contract situation.

"He's a great player, and we want him playing in the NHL, and I believe he wants to play in the NHL. As a matter of fact, during our arbitration on the first contract, he said as much, that his priority is to play in the NHL. We obviously want him playing in the league," Daly said.

"Having said that, I think it's very, very important to protect our rules and to make decisions based on our rules, and if it means losing a player I'd rather protect our rules than make an exception for an exceptional player," Daly added.

Bettman also denied the Chicago Blackhawks' recent loaning of Cristobal Huet to a Swiss club was a kind of circumvention of the collective bargaining agreement given Huet's salary comes off the Blackhawks' books and doesn't count against the salary cap. Huet's cap hit this season would have been $5.625 million.

"It's known as cap management," he said.

Scott Burnside covers the NHL for ESPN.com.

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