The arbitrator in the NHL’s case against the New Jersey Devils ruled in favor of the league this afternoon, denying the team’s 17 year/$102 million offer, citing a clear salary cap circumvention as the reason.
We have been through a whirlwind with Ilya this summer; first we went nearly three weeks waiting for him to make a decision, then the next week reveling in stupor at the contract he was given, and now the last two weeks waiting to see what the verdict would be after the league rejected what would have been the most lucrative contract in NHL history.
The Devils will now presumably go back to the drawing board, to sign Kovalchuk to a more realistic deal, not so cap-friendly to their organization.
As the Devils work on this, Kovalchuk becomes a free agent yet again, free to court other offers from teams. The Los Angeles Kings, who were second in the bidding, may come knocking again, with their last offer being 15 years/$80 million.
In a way this is unfair to the Devils; the contracts dolled out to Hossa, Zetterberg, and Luongo, among others, these last few seasons should have been rejected as well, but the Devils are victims of just plain bad timing. The NHL was getting ready to put their foot down one of these days, and New Jersey walked right into it.
I still believe Kovalchuk will end up with the Devils, even if they need to give him a one or two year deal to hold him over until they can free up more space down the road. The Rangers supposedly had a two year/$15 million offer to Kovalchuk, but with recent additions Alex Frolov and Todd White, that may or may not still be available.
To look at it from a Rangers standpoint, all they would have to do is waive Redden and White, accounting for nearly $9 million. Matt Gilroy can then be traded, bringing the total up to almost $11 million. Staal can then be re-signed and Kovalchuk, with a cap hit of around $6 million, can comfortably fit. It’s definitely a long-shot, but one the Rangers must consider.
The saga will continue, only question is how long…
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