After the NBA took over the free agent news for the past few weeks, the NHL’s edition finally has its big news: forward Ilya Kovalchuk has decided to stay in New Jersey after signing a lucrative deal worth $102-million over the next 17 years – a cap hit of $6-million per season.
No you didn’t read that wrong, 17 years! The 27-year-old Kovalchuk could be with the Devils until he is 44. Wow.
Kovalchuk is the highest goal-scoring player in the NHL since the 2001 season with 338 goals, which is exactly what the defensive minded Devils were in need of. The Russian had 10 goals and 17 assists in just 27 games for the Devils last season, and had six more in the playoffs. In combination with his time in Atlanta earlier in the season, he put up 41G and 44A for 85 points.
Now playing with the likes of Travis Zajac and Zach Parise, barring any moves to keep the team below the cap, Kovalchuk’s numbers should increase from that despite the style of play in the Swamp. It’s a double win for the Devils as his point-production should increase wins, and while doing so it should take some pressure off of goaltender Martin Brodeur each and every night.
While those in New Jersey are ecstatic, the feeling should be mutual in Los Angeles where Kovalchuk was also considering playing next season. Fans in LA-LA Land wanted Kovalchuk to join their team. They’ve suffered for years and this could be their chance to rise from the ashes and move on towward the holy land. But they also had to be worried about him signing. Not because he wouldn’t do well, as I think he would thrive in that system, but because the team would have to prepare for the loss of a couple of young stars in the next few seasons. Kovalchuk’s cap hit would ultimately put the team in a bad spot as defencemen Jack Johnson and Drew Doughty along with forward Wayne Simmonds and a number of other youthful talent there, are all due pay increases in the 2011-12 season. Kovalchuk’s contract wouldn’t allow them to keep all of these players so in the end Kovalchuk’s signing in Jersey is great news for the Kings.
The Kings ranked ninth in goals, assists and points last season which shows scoring wasn’t an issue. The problem came down to defensive breakdowns in the playoffs – and maybe all season as the 231 goal-for, was not much above the 206 goals-against. Losing Doughty and Johnson easily outweighs the addition of Kovalchuk to the offence.