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Ilya Kovalchuk #17 of the New Jersey Devils skates against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Prudential Center on February 5, 2010 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Jim McIsaac/2010 Getty Images

Ilya Kovalchuk remains in free-agency limbo after the NHL extended the deadline to approve the 15-year, $100-million (U.S.) deal he has in place with the New Jersey Devils to Friday from Wednesday.

And with only two weeks until NHL training camps open, time is running out to get the Russian star winger under contract.

At issue, as has been the case since Kovalchuk first signed a 17-year, $102-million deal with the Devils in late July, is potential salary cap circumvention. The NHL waited only one day before rejecting Kovalchuk's initial contract, a decision grieved by the NHL Players' Association and eventually upheld by an independent arbitrator.

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More than six weeks after the rejection, there are now reports indicating Kovalchuk may sign in Russia's Continental Hockey League if there isn't a resolution to the matter in the near future. The KHL season opens next Wednesday, and SKA Saint Petersburg has a deal in waiting.

The extra two days, meanwhile, may result in more than a simple yea or nay from the league.

TSN and ESPN both reported on Wednesday that the NHL and NHLPA are discussing potential alterations to the league's collective bargaining agreement as a solution to the growing number of heavily front-loaded, long-term contracts - a process that could ultimately affect deals beyond Kovalchuk's.

Contracts given to four other players - Roberto Luongo, Marian Hossa, Chris Pronger and Marc Savard - remain under investigation by the league and could be affected by any potential CBA changes governing long-term contracts.

Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello released a statement Wednesday on the deadline extension.

"We remain 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 [Richard]Bloch's decision [on the first rejected deal]" he said. "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."

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Hockey Reporter

James joined The Globe as an editor and reporter in the sports department in 2005 and now covers the NHL and the Toronto Maple Leafs. More

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