Monday, August 9, 2010

Breaking News: Ilya Kovalchuk a Free Man

By all means, the Devils want Ilya Kovalchuk.

By all means, Ilya Kovalchuk really wants to make money.

The problem is that the two desires aren't able to be mutual.

Kovalchuk is a talented player, don't get me wrong. However, he's the beneficiary of being able to run rough shot all over an Atlanta franchise that wanted and needed a franchise player. He was able to do what he wanted as a result. Now, he's got an over inflated opinion of himself.

He can score goals like a demon. He has a wicked slap shot and a very good wrist shot. Beyond that... he doesn't have much. Speed? Yes. Defense? Never his forte. Playing the body? Nope. He's demanding $10 million for his first few years. He's demanding far more than he's worth.

The Devils tried to be sneaky and make it work, offering him a contract that declined like a roller coaster. The last few years of his 17 year contract, which would finally run out as kids born at the start of next season are entering their senior year of high school, were at current league minimum and will no doubt be worth less than league minimum by the time he's 44 years old (when his contract runs out).

Not only was this really, really shady... it was illegal. Or so many people thought. And after today's results, an arbiter has ruled that it was, indeed, illegal and looked to circumvent the basic premise of the NHL's Collective Bargaining Agreement by artificially lowering the overall value of the contract (from a high of over $10 million at it's peak to around $500,000 at it's valley) when all monies are evened out.

This made his cap hit much lower than it should be and further attempted to avoid the clause in the CBA that says anyone signed at aged 35 years old or above shall have their contract count towards the team's salary cap even if they expire.

While other contracts are also questionable (the Blackhawks Marian Hossa, the Canucks Roberto Luongo) in terms of length and cost, this one was the most obvious way around the Cap and it's basic reasoning behind salary stability.

The NHL is finally setting a standard. While it (rightfully) ignored the Chris Pronger contract handed out by the Flyers (he signed it past the age of 35, by mistake of the Flyers GM so his $5+ million per year will still count towards the Cap when Pronger retires) it went after the most obvious, most obnoxious, attempt to circumvent the Cap it had faced yet.

Now we find out the true Ilya Kovalchuk. Does he want to play for a winner, or does he want to play for money? If he ends up back in New Jersey, it'll be at a cheaper price tag as there is no way they want to lose star left wing Zach Parise. If he's in it for the money, he'll end up in Long Island with the Islanders or over in the KHL.

The Devils, the Kings, the Islanders... they are no longer on the clock. It's now about what Kovalchuk wants to do. He's about to show his true colors. It's either silver or green.

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