Ilya Kovalchuk has agreed to a 17-year/$102 million contract with the New Jersey Devils.
Kovalchuk will make $6 million in 2010-11 and 2011-12. He will then earn $11.5 million in each of the following five seasons, $10 million in 2017-18, $8.5 million in 2018-19, $6.5 million the following season, $3.5 million in 2020-21, $750,000 in 2021-22, and $550,000 in each of the last five years of his contract. This heavily frontloaded contract was almost assuredly designed to keep his average salary over the life of the contract low in order to keep his cap hit down. Kovalchuk could theoretically retire before the contract is over rather than play in his 40s for $550,000 per season. This isn't the first contract to employ this tactic, but it does appear to be the biggest potential offender.