Several sources have reported that the NHL and NHLPA have agreed on a systems arbitrator to rule on the grievance filed over Ilya Kovalchuk’s 17-year, $102 million dollar contract.

The hearing date, identity of the arbitrator and location have yet to be announced.

Reports say that both sides want a ruling by the end of next week. Since the arbitrator will have 48 hours to deliver a ruling, it’s likely the meeting will take early next week. The hearing is expected to take two days.

Since the NHLPA represents Kovalchuk, the Devils will have limited involvement in the case. The arbitrator can call team representatives – including general manager Lou Lamoriello and owner Jeff Vanderbeek – to be witnesses during the hearing. Representatives can also be there to observe the proceedings.

Kovalchuk does not have to be at the hearing, but he may be called in to testify. The left-winger had planned to go back to Russia to meet with his trainer and begin preparing for the upcoming season.

It seems as if the arbitrator will only rule whether or not the rejection of the contract should be upheld. Earlier this week, I wrote about the possible repercussions the NHL could level against the Devils and Kovalchuk if the arbitrator’s decision favored the league. At this point, it seems like the league is only interested in whether or not the deal will be approved.

It seems like this situation is finally beginning to reach its climax. Next week will be crucial, and it’ll be interesting to see if any testimony, etc. is leaked to the press. Now, we all get one week to anxiously wait and see whether or not Kovalchuk will be a Devil.