Published: Aug 09, 2010 10:59 PM EDT
Updated: Aug 10, 2010 4:30 AM EDT

Ilya Kovalchuk is back on the free-agent market.

An arbiter ruled Monday that the NHL acted correctly in voiding Kovalchuk's landmark $102 million contract with the New Jersey Devils.

The league had rejected the 17-year contract, saying the longest deal in league history violated its salary cap.

The NHL Players Association filed a grievance against the league. A hearing was held last week and arbiter Richard Bloch sided with the league when he issued his ruling.

The decision puts Kovalchuk back on the market. The high-scoring Russian was hockey's biggest prize in free agency this year with 338 goals and 304 assists in 642 career games.

"We want to thank arbitrator Bloch for his prompt resolution of a complex issue," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement. "His ruling is consistent with the league's view of the manner in which the collective bargaining agreement should deal with contracts that circumvent the salary cap."

Neither the players' association nor Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello was immediately available for comment.

Kovalchuk and the Devils agreed to the deal July 19. The next day, the league determined the contract was illegal because years of low salary at the end lowered the cap hit.

The union filed a grievance July 26.

The All-Star was slated to earn only $550,000 in each of the last five seasons of the rejected deal. It would have run through the 2026-27 season, when Kovalchuk will be 44.

Kovalchuk had 41 goals and 44 assists last season, when he was traded to the Devils by Atlanta in February. The 27-year-old left wing is the league's leading goal scorer since 2001.

The Los Angeles Kings, New York Islanders, Devils and SKA St. Petersburg of Russia's Kontinental Hockey League talked with Kovalchuk after free agency started July 1. The final decision came down to the Kings and New Jersey.