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Where could Ilya Kovalchuk land?

Jun 5, 2010, 5:45 PM EDT

Thumbnail image for kovalchukkhl.jpgIn the last post, I discussed the fact that I don’t think Ilya Kovalchuk is worthy of a huge contract. Still, Puck Daddy’s Dmitry Chesnokov makes a good point when he states that Kovalchuk is one of – if not the – biggest free agents of the post-lockout era. (Although, I’d argue from a team-changing standpoint, Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer were bigger chips during the first off-season. But that’s just nitpicking. Besides, I don’t doubt that Kovalchuk will make far more money.)

Now, Kovalchuk wants to sign an enormous deal and play for a contender. The problem is that most players who sign those crazy, 20 percent of the cap type deals tend to do that with the team that drafted them or at least acquired them years before. In other words, the clubs knew that day was coming … instead of jumping at the chance one summer. And, really, how many good teams will have $8-$10 million of extra cap space left once they fill a 20-man roster?

So, let’s be a little bit more realistic and look at teams with at least a feasible chance of signing the explosive Russian. Your view of “feasible” and mine could differ. That’s why Al Gore invented Internet comments. Share them.

The KHL – OK, I know that Chesnokov denied the possibility of Kovalchuk going to Russia, but if money’s a big factor … the overseas league might make Kovalchuk their answer to the WHA and Bobby Hull (with a butt-cut). No NHL team can make Kovalchuk’s bank account as happy.

Atlanta – Just kidding.

New Jersey – The team that traded for him could conceivably keep him, but there are some potential snags. Could they try to give Brian Rolston the “Alex Mogilny treatment” and send him to the minors? Most importantly, Zach Parise’s ridiculously low $3.1 million cap hit will expire after the 2010-11 season. My guess is that they’ll want to keep the younger American more than the enigmatic Kovalchuk. The Devils bowed out of the first round of the playoffs with Kovalchuk. Should they really be impressed enough to wreck their cap for him?

After the jump, a few other teams with an outside chance.

Thumbnail image for doughty.jpgLos Angeles – The Kings are in a similar boat as the Devils. Their answer to the Parise issue is all-world defenseman Drew Doughty, who will command a ridiculous (but warranted) contract after his rookie deal expires next season. With such a young team, Kovalchuk might make it difficult to keep their core together. Still, putting a dynamic scorer on the Kings could make them the new class of the Pacific, considering the changes the Sharks look to undergo.

Toronto – If they can move Tomas Kaberle, they’ll have a decent amount of cap space. Oh, and wouldn’t it be hilarious to watch the Toronto media go from “Beatles invasion Kovalchuk love fest” to “Tearing apart Kovalchuk for every flaw in his game”? This one might not win for realism, but it sure would be entertaining.

NY Islanders – Sure, they’re not very good – and they might not have the budget for him – but from a raw cap perspective, they’re rich. Garth Snow’s squad has almost $30 million in space and, even with Rick Dipietro’s foolish deal, not much of it is wasted.

St. Louis  – This could be an interesting gamble. Paul Kariya ($6 million) and Keith Tkachuk ($2.5 million)’s expired deals almost equal the kind of cap hit Kovalchuk is looking for. The problem is that their stud defenseman Erik Johnson is a restricted free agent this summer and the team lacks a No. 1 goalie with Chris Mason as a UFA, so their near-$30 million of cap space is a bit misleading. Still, the Blues are one year removed from a playoff run, seem to have a semi-competent front office and could pay him the big bucks. It’s at least an intriguing possibility, right?

Now, there are other teams who could be in the running, but those are the most interesting candidates. Where do you expect Kovalchuk to land?

  1. jkrdevil - Jun 5, 2010 at 6:23 PM

    A few points,
    First, The Devils can’t “Mogilny” Brian Rolston. He is a 35+ player that means they only way they can remove that cap hit is by trading him (and he has a no-trade), unless he comes down with a mysterious season long injury next year (unlikely). Now he may accept a trade if it looks like the Devils may sign Kovy as it will basically cut out his ice time as it did at the end of last year. Still they basically would have to know they can move him before re-signing Kovy or they might get stuck in a hard place with the NTC.
    Second, Pronger was never a free agent post lockout. He was traded to Edmonton from St. Louis and signed an extension there. He was obviously also traded to Philly where he then signed that long extension.

  2. Evan - Jun 6, 2010 at 12:02 PM

    how about come to tampa bay lighting because we could when the stanley cup with lines like with vincent lecavilar and steven stankos and we have a knew gm steve yezerman

  3. H - Jun 6, 2010 at 12:41 PM

    Wow. That was brutal.

  4. Laura - Jun 6, 2010 at 6:50 PM

    Yeeeaaahhh, I’m not a fan of Kovalchuk to St. Louis. As a Thrashers’ fan, I got the chance to watch him since the beginning of his career, and he’s just not worth it. He’ll suck the identity away from any team without any other big stars, and I don’t want the Blues to be the Ilya Kovalchuks like the Thrashers were for a while. Kovalchuk and the massive marketing that would need to take place to make his contract worthwhile would shove the young guns out of the way, much like it did here with Bogosian and Kane, who are now apparently allowed on advertisements.
    There are a few other reasons that I disagree (which I whine about over on Thrashing the Blues), but St. Louis has too much going for them without Kovalchuk. The problem in StL is getting an actual #1 goalie and figuring out how to fix our own 40 goal scorer, Brad Boyes. We’d be successful – and much better off – without Kovalchuk.

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