That is the big question right now, since Ilya Kovalchuk is not under contract. But he isn’t a free agent. It’s confusing, I know. Here is what Tom Gulitti had to say about it:
As for Kovalchuk’s status-whether he is an unrestricted free agent or Devils’ property-Lamoriello wouldn’t answer that question either. According to someone who would know but was not authorized to speak publicly on the subject, Kovalchuk is still contractually linked to the Devils, though that contract is not considered legal by the NHL. So, he is not a UFA and is not free to speak with other teams about a contract. He could change that by requesting that the NHLPA not pursue the matter with a grievance, but that does not appear to be his intention.
OK,so here is how this works. Kovalchuk is still Devils' property, even though they currently don’t have a legal contract. So he can’t talk to other teams, and other teams can’t approach him. The reason for this is because although the NHL rejected the contract, that objection will have to be approved by an arbitration judge if the NHLPA files a grievance. Until that happens, he is still Devils property because the arbitration judge could rule this a valid contract.
The only way that Kovalchuk would become a UFA is if he tells the NHLPA that he does not want them to bring this case to arbitration, and thus, the NHL’s ruling would be automatically accepted. Then Kovalchuk would be a UFA, and it would be as though he never signed a deal with the Devils.
What is most likely to happen, is that the NHLPA is going to file a grievance and the case will go to court. And arbitration judge will deem if the NHL had the right to reject the contract, and then he will rule from there.
As of right now, it appears that the latter will be the case. I can’t see Kovalchuk giving up on his $100-million dollar dream. It’s just gonna keep going, and we’ll keep you in the loop while it happens.