The most interesting side story to the Kovalchuk contract ordeal is the speculation regarding what player(s) the Devils will have to move to get back within the parameters of the salary cap.
Should Kovalchuk's new deal be approved, and if it is the $6.66m cap hit that it is speculated to be, the Devils would be roughly $3.6m over the cap.
If that is the case, they could use the Blackhawks' Huet/cheat-the-system method and simply send a player to the minors to hide their cost against the cap. Although it is the simplest method, it seems very un-Jersey like, and there are few candidates to choose from.
Many, including the New York Post's Mark Everson believe that the Devils will make a trade or two to free up space.
It's difficult to fathom, but rumors are floating that Travis Zajac may be among the players the Devils will eventually sacrifice to get under the salary cap if Ilya Kovalchuk's $100 million, 15-year contract is approved by the NHL.
Conventional wisdom suggests Bryce Salvador ($2.9 million) and Dainius Zubrus ($3.4 million) are the obvious candidates to surrender for the $3-5 million in cap space the Devils would need to clear by the start of the season if Kovalchuk's deal is approved.
Zajac, 25, signed a new deal last summer that has a cap hit of $3.89 million for the next three seasons. He is coming off his best season of 25-42-67.
With all due respect to the honorable Lou Lamoriello... and remember I said "with all due respect", but with each player that the team sacrifices for the sake of the additions of this summer, the luster of those acquisitions fades.
Particularly the Jason Arnott deal. For $4.5m??? He "ain't worth a painting of a whale and a dolphin gettin' it on" especially when you consider that he will cost the team talent in addition to the unattractive salary!
As crazy as the suggestion of trading Zajac is, it may be the reality. I mean, who really wants Salvador or Zubrus at their price?
Clarke MacArthur won his arbitration hearing with the Atlanta Thrashers when he was awarded $2.4 million in salary for the upcoming season. As a result, the team walked away from the payday, making MacArthur a UFA.
Just in time! This story is just that close to nearing "Koval-who-gives-a-flying-chuk" status! TSN, ESPN and Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record are all reporting that the Devils have submitted a new signed contract for league review and all parties expect it to be ratified by the NHL.
Just yesterday it was reported that Kovalchuk's Russian agent, Yuri Nikolaev had set a 48-hour deadline for the NHL to resolve his client's contract issues or Kovalchuk will likely play in the KHL for next season.
Really? As if (as previously discussed here) Eastern European players don't have enough of a negative stigma, here is Kovy's agent demanding that the NHL fix contract issues that are between the Devils and his client! Lunacy.
It certainly seems like this deal will be approved, speculated to be worth $100m over 15 years, minus the dramatic salary drop off that the first contract involved. The new deal would count a devilish $6.66m against the cap each season.
Please be done. Please be done. We are certainly done with this lame soap opera.
btw NJD: It will be an albatross contract in 5 years... just need to pay him 10 more years after that! Woo hoo!
The L.A. Kings further bolstered their roster today:
Los Angeles, CA (Sports Network) - The Los Angeles Kings have agreed to terms with free-agent defenseman Willie Mitchell on a two-year contract worth $3.5 million per season.
Mitchell's 2009-10 season was derailed by a concussion, limiting him to 48 games where he posted four goals and 12 points.
The former eighth-round pick of the New Jersey Devils in 1996, the 33-year-old has compiled 19 goals, 119 points and 621 penalty minutes in 586 NHL games with the Devils, Wild, Stars and Canucks.
When healthy, Mitchell is one of the better defenders in the league, and he also brings his share of the nasty stuff to the table, something the Kings didn't have in abundance.
Don't look now, but the Kings have built a Cup worthy defensive corps to go with their well rounded forwards. Flying a bit under the radar has been good for the Kings this off-season. Staying away from the temptation of signing Kovalchuk secures the long-term future of this team... which by the way, is bright!
The Kings are looking forward to re-signing their franchise defender, Doughty; and have one of, if not the best, list of prospects in all of hockey. L.A. raked 9th in the NHL in both goals scored and goals allowed.
The addition of two-way forward Alex Ponikarovsky and today's addition of the defensive minded Willie Mitchell does nothing but enhance their chances of making a legit run at the Cup this season and beyond.
Ty Domi - The Albanian Assassin. Domi was a flat out nasty cuss. Cheap, ugly, evil... he always seemed to be on the prowl. You could make a list of his transgressions on a per game basis. Most memorable scum bag move: It's debatable. Any time a Philly fan gets his head beat in, you could say he deserved it, but Domi used his on ice guile to ensnare a simpleton, so we will call it a mismatch... he pummeled a fan while in the penalty box.
Bryan Marchment - The guys was pure evil. Marchment served 13 suspensions in a career of 12 seasons, nearly perfecting the knee on knee collision. Most memorable scum bag move: You name it. He injured the likes of Mike Modano, Paul Kariya, Pavel Bure and even Mike Gartner!
Marty McSorley - For a long time he was Wayne Gretzky's personal bodyguard on the ice. Wherever #99 was, so was McSorley. During that time he was know to do whatever it took to keep guys off of Wayne. However, towards the latter stages of his playing days McSorely became a poster boy for cheap shots and controversy. Most memorable scum bag move: McSorley thought Donald Brashear resembled a long Northwestern pine and decided it was time to chop him down.
Chris Pronger - "Captain Elbows". The guy doesn’t have eight career suspensions for being an honest checker. Pronger is especially detestable when he cracks a joke after a low-life move and all of his jock-carrying media pals swoon afterward because he's a good quote. Most memorable scum bag move: His Simon-esque stomp of Ryan Kesler.
Jarko Ruutu - Ruutu is a premier agitator, and to his credit he will stand there and take his punishment. However, Jarko is all too willing to take it to the next level. Which for others, isn't good. Most memorable scum bag move: Rutuu in a scrum with Andrew Peters decided it would be a good idea to bite his hand.
Honorable Mentions: Ulf Samuelsson, Colby Armstrong, Matt Cooke, Mike Ribeiro, Darius Kasparitus, Brian Bellows, Chris Chelios, Dino Ciccarelli, Scott Hartnell, Daniel Carcillo, Scott Stevens
There will always be those guys who are disliked for off the ice reasons, or for simply committing the crime of being good and not on the other 29 teams. But, honestly they don't count as most of that hatred is based on misconception and flat out fan fiction.
Classic examples include Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Gretzky, Lemieux, Messier, etc...
However, we have a special place reserved for:
Eric Lindros - Where do we begin? He started his career off by being daddy's little puppet allowing his parents to make an ass out of him by orchestrating not only which junior team he played for, but also his NHL draft team. Lindros would refuse to play for the Quebec Nordiques who drafted first overall in 1991. The Lindros family forced a trade to Philly. It ended up being the best thing that could have happened to Quebec. However, the sentiment began there that Eric Lindros was a very talented player with an incredibly un-hockeylike measure of self importance. As advertised, Lindros could score, but he also fancied himself a hard-ass. He played with an edge, but found out that it came back to him many times... often much worse than what he dished out. Lindros' demeanor was so distasteful to fans many cheered when he got "knocked-the-eff-out!"
Courtesy of Darius Kasparaitis:
Courtesy of Scott Stevens:
Lindros never learned to keep his head up no matter how many times he had his bell rung. After the Stevens hit above essentially ended his playing days, Lindros was not through being an a-hole. Twice now he has been involved with the NHLPA's corrupt coups of legit leaders, continuing their history of disorganization and cannibalization.
Keep it up Eric! Here is to seeing Stevens lay you out one more time on the Avenue of the Americas!
In case we were too subtle, Lindros wins our most hated player of all time award.
Give us your feedback. Who do you hate, and why? We already had one vote for Ray Emery. Thanks for weighing in Kerry!
First of all, he was part of the ridiculous Eric Lindros trade. In return for who is sure to be Max Talbot's "All-Time Number One Douche", the Quebec Nordiques received Forsberg, as well as Ron Hextall, Chris Simon, Mike Ricci, Kerry Huffman, Steve Duchesne, a 1993 1st round selection (Jocelyn Thibault), and another 1st round selection (later traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs) in 1994, and $15,000,000 cash.
Forsberg alone was better than Lindros! ... but that is not the only reason why we love Forsberg. They guy was a skilled as any player in his era, AND he was as tough as nails. He could score goals, pass with pinpoint accuracy and drive his man into the glass with the best of them.
However, injuries began to derail his playing career. As his last few years have diminished into something resembling a much less ego-driven and a ton less annoying version of the Brett Favre saga, we sincerely hope that this is the end of his attempts to come back to play in the NHL.
In an interview with Swedish television station TV6 following an exhibition game in his home country, the two-time Stanley Cup champion was not optimistic about his chances of continuing to play professional hockey.
"It's no good," Forsberg told TV6. "I have no balance skating. If it continues to be as it is today, I will not continue playing."
Still the guy cannot give up:
"We may give it a week," Forsberg told TV6. "The foot, I can not do anything about the equipment but it could get better."
Please Pete! It ain't gonna get better! We love ya, but it's time for the retirement party already!
According to multiple sources, free agent centre Eric Belanger has a one-year deal in waiting to return to the Washington Capitals. The contract is believed to be a slight raise over the $1.75-million he made last season, to $1.85-million.
What's interesting is that he has been told not to announce where he's going, leading to Belanger telling the French language newspaper Le Soleil on Wednesday that he is about to sign but can't say where due to the fact the team he's headed to is working on a trade.
The intrigue! Alex Semin, who is in the last year of his $6 million per deal, came to mind first; but Mirtle believes it involves recently re-signed Tomas Fleishmann for a defenseman.
Washington is not believed to be in discussions for Tomas Kaberle, so who might that blueliner be? Vancouver's Kevin Bieksa? Edmonton's Sheldon Souray? Another surprise? Whomever may be the target will fetch a big return in Fleishmann, who scored 23 goals last season for the Caps.
For Caps fans wondering aloud: "Belanger for Fleishmann?" Wait to see the trade return and then see if you like the combined return better.
Immediately after arbitrator Richard Bloch voided Kovalchuk's 17-year "deal with the Devils", the League seemed intent on sewing up all of it's loose end deals, some that had even been "investigated" before.
Canuck general manager Mike Gillis confirmed in an email to the Vancouver Sun Monday night that the league is indeed studying Luongo's 12-year, $64 million contract.
"We have complied with the NHL request for information and are awaiting further instructions," Gillis said. "Cannot say anything further at this point."
Luongo's deal, signed last September, begins this season and will pay him $10 million in 2010-11. In the final year, when he is 43, Luongo is scheduled to make just $1 million. The goaltender's cap hit over the 12 years is $5.33 million.
In his ruling, Bloch made reference to the recent long-term contracts signed by Roberto Luongo, Chris Pronger, Marian Hossa and Marc Savard.
The National Hockey League Players Association noted that since these four contracts had been approved "with structures similar" to the Kovalchuk deal, then Kovalchuk's deal with the Devils should also be approved. However, Bloch wrote:
"The apparent purpose of this evidence is to suggest that the League's concern is late blooming and/or inconsistent. Several responses are in order: First, while the contracts have, in fact, been registered, their structure has not escaped League notice: those SPCs [standard player's contracts] are being investigated currently with at least the possibility of a subsequent withdrawal of the registration."...
In regards to Luongo's contract, Bloch wrote:"[Luongo] has a 12-year agreement that will end when he is 43. After averaging some $7,000,000 per year for the first 9 years of the Agreement, Luongo will receive an average of about 1.2 million during his last 3 years, amounting to some 5.7% of the total compensation during that time period."
The league had rejected Kovalchuk's 17-year deal, saying the longest deal in league history violated its salary cap.
We will say this: we were one of the few outlets that were not surprised by the ruling. Kovalchuk's deal, while similar to other long term contracts, was a much more blatant attempt to purposely lower the cap hit.
Yet, from a PR standpoint, it just looks a little flimsy that the NHL needed the ruling to go their way in order to revisit past "loop hole" deals that they supposedly already have investigated.
This is egregious, do you hear me? Egregious!
For example, they were a bit put off by Hossa's contract last summer. The NHL "investigated" it. Approved it... but after Kovalchuk's arbitration, they will go back and look at it again?
These kind of actions seem to have the NHL strip away it's own authority. If they didn't approve of prior contracts, the time to reject their validity was at the time of ratification, not after the league was slapped in the face by an even more egregious deal.
In a blatant attempt to upstage the NBA/LeBron "Decision", the Ilya Kovalchuk free agency saga continued to the next stage today!
OK, we are kidding about the upstaging part, but the independent arbitrator assigned to the Kovalchuk case ruled in favor of the NHL, thus voiding his mega contract with the Devils. Dan Rosen, NHL.com Staff Writer reports:
Ilya Kovalchuk is once again an unrestricted free agent as systems arbitrator Richard Bloch has determined the NHL was within its legal right to reject the 17-year, $102 million contract Kovalchuk signed with the New Jersey Devils in July.
Bloch heard arguments from both the NHL and the NHL Players' Association, which filed a grievance on Kovalchuk's behalf, over two days in Boston last week. His decision came late Monday afternoon. As a result of Bloch's ruling, Kovalchuk immediately returns to unrestricted free agent status.
Upon announcing the contract was rejected, NHL Deputy Commissioner said the League would not approve it because it was a "circumvention of the Collective Bargaining Agreement."
The Devils can choose to re-work the contract in hopes of getting it approved, or Kovalchuk could look elsewhere. Los Angeles reportedly had an offer for 15 years and $80 million on the table before Kovalchuk agreed to re-sign with New Jersey.
How interesting would this drama get if indeed he did bolt New Jersey for L.A.'s offer? He would surely become the most hated man in Newark!
Hardly a surprise, another guy that no team in the NHL really wanted heads to the KHL. What is surprising is his commitment to SKA St. Petersburg, a five-year deal. With no demand for him in 2010, Afinogenov who will be 31 in September, will not be back when his new deal expires.
"When Afinogenov get offers for five-year deal wit KHL, he jump in it."
One amusing point of interest... no media outlet wants to take credit for the announcement.
Maxim Afinogenov we hardly knew ye! The former Buffalo Sabre and Atlanta Thrasher signed a five-year deal with SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL today. [TSN]
Regardless, Afinogenov does join Evgeni Nabokov and Denis Grebeshkov as 2010 St. Petersburg defectors.
As more players leave the NHL for the Kontinental Hockey League it becomes more and more evident that KHL president, billionaire Alexander Medvedev is the opposite of the mega rich DirecTV guy. When he takes the NHL leftovers, he doesn't get "the byest" AND he doesn't get to "savings di myoney".
Yep, it's one of those days. The big news on Wednesday? If you look past the Ottawa Senators signing defenseman David Hale and forward Francis Lessard to one-year, two-way contracts, and the Red Wings re-signing RFA Darren Helm... the story of the day is Ilya Kovachuk's arbitration hearing began today. Pbbbbpt!
Luckily, we have a plan for such emergencies. We break the glass and extract video clips of the big saves and goals from last season!
This gem is brought to you courtesy of Miikka Kiprusoff's ridiculous athleticism. It seems that every year he provides a candidate for "Save of the Year" consideration.
Has it really been that quiet this off-season? Is this the most highly anticipated signing of a third line center in history?
We are not sure, but we believe that sound was the distant sound of the Hallelujah Chorus playing in Hockeytown when NHL.com reported:
Mike Babcock expressed his firm belief that the Detroit Red Wings would sign Mike Modano when he gave an exclusive interview to NHL.com last month. Now that it apparently will come true, Babcock is not the least bit surprised.
Modano, who's golfing in Scotland, confirmed via text to the Dallas Morning News on Tuesday that he has decided to play with the Wings. The native of suburban Detroit later confirmed in a text message to The Associated Press that he has agreed to a one-year deal.
The Red Wings’ coach said he’ll be thrilled to add Modano to the lineup.
Modano may very well be one of the greatest American born players in NHL history, but his numbers have been on the decline, and he is a collective minus-30 over the past three seasons.
It's a nice homecoming story, but there is no need to engrave Modano's nor the rest of his new teammates names on the Cup just yet. However, we assume that his wife, Willa Ford will be coming with him, so maybe a small celebration is in order for the fan in the stands at the Joe.
The Chicago Blackhawks may be primed to have the shortest Cup ring ceremony in history. "Here ya go aaaaand... he ya go. Done"
After already shipping out Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager, Andrew Ladd, Brent Sopel, Kris Versteeg and Adam Burish from last year's Cup team, TSN reports that the Hawks are on the verge of signing goaltender Marty Turco, which would obviously mean that they are going to walk away from Antti Niemi's arbitration award.
Let's not forget they also have a handful of UFAs remaining that they have zero chance of bringing back, and still more salary to shed.
The Blackhawks will be attempting to defend their championship season with half of their Cup roster and half of their AHL affiliate in Rockford. Don't plan that parade route again for next year just yet.