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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

The fate of Ilya Kovalchuk's disputed contract with the New Jersey Devils could be decided by the end of next week.



A source tells The Canadian Press that the NHL and the NHL Players' Association have agreed to an independent arbitrator and that the hearing is expected to start as soon as next week.



The league rejected the 17-year deal that Kovalchuk signed earlier this month with New Jersey that would pay the 27-year-old Russian US$102-million.

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NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly called the longest deal in league history a "circumvention of the (Collective Bargaining Agreement)" in rejecting the landmark contract last week.



The NHL Players' Association filed a grievance on Monday that disputes the league's rejection.

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