On Wednesday, the NHL rejected yet another proposal by the Devils on a contract for Ilya Kovalchuk. The Devils thought they had signed the prized winger to the most lucrative contract in NHL history, topping out at a 17-year deal worth $102 million on July 19. But 16 days ago, arbitrator Richard Bloch said the contract wasn’t within the current salary cap confines.
Ok, so now it’s Round 2 and the league still can't come to an agreement with Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek, general manager Lou Lamoriello, and Kovalchuk.
Here’s an idea: how about Gary Bettman and company just present the Devils with a suggested contract within the years and money that the organization is willing to spend? Clearly the Devils have expressed that money isn’t an option with one of the top players in the league.
But by waiting to get this deal done, a number of bigger issues are looming on the horizon.
First, if you can’t sign Kovalchuk, he will walk. And he’s not walking to another team in the NHL because he’ll run into the same problem. Instead, he’ll walk his way right back to his native Russia and sign a lucrative KHL deal that will trump the numbers that have been on the table here in the U.S. That means the league will lose one of their most skilled, talented and marketable players.
The NHL just cannot afford that.
Second, by stalling, the NHL is putting other players at a disservice. Doesn’t the league realize how many top tier free agents have yet to be signed? With a handful of NHL teams still retaining hope that they can snag Kovalchuk from New Jersey if a deal isn’t met, those organizations are hesitant to dig into their wallets to sign a free agent. There are even players within the Devils organization who have yet to be re-signed because if Kovalchuk becomes a member of Lou’s army for the next 17 years, then some pieces to the puzzle will have to change.
Which brings me to my next point: the Devils are going to have to trade a top player or two in order to clear space for their biggest star.
As I said before, preseason camp is weeks away. Teams are already skating together and working out in preparation for the upcoming season. If Kovalchuk is going to get signed then do it now.
Enough already. Sign him to a contract that is within the current CBA specifications and move on. Move the players that need to go, sign the ones who don’t have a job and are essentially working out on their own right now, and let’s go.
Delaying the process is only doing more harm, and creating an incredible amount of disrespect to the league and its players.