Who is the biggest free agent available this summer? Ilya Kovalchuk
What team is the only big market team to not publicly have an interest in Ilya Kovalchuk? The New York Rangers.
For a team that year after year brings in big-money players, all is way too quiet on the Eastern front. Not once has there been a rumor of the Rangers having an interest in Ilya Kovalchuk. Not from Eklund, not from the beat writers, not from anyone. The Rangers have to be interested in acquiring its services, so it is extremely strange that there has not even been word of an offer made to him.
Management has promised a better offensive team next season, but with no new catalysts brought in, and the homegrown players still at least a year away from development, this offensive help must come externally. Kovalchuk, despite his issues in big game situations is a perennial forty goal scorer who can hit more than fifty if he puts his mind to it. He is also a guaranteed ninety points.
The only three teams that have been publicly announced as serious contenders are the Los Angeles Kings, New Jersey Devils, and New York Islanders. Although feasible, there is something wrong with each one of these teams being attractive to him.
First and foremost, Kovalchuk turned down the Kings offer this afternoon, so it is unlikely that he will sign there. The Devils have less than $4 million available, and would need to move a few players to fit him. Meanwhile, the Islanders offered Kovalchuk a ten-year deal worth $100 million. If it was about the money, he would have signed there immediately.
For Kovalchuk, it can’t be about the money. The reason being the Islanders offer, which was identical tot he offer Thrashers GM Don Waddell made to him last season. He has now had the chance to become the richest player in the NHL twice, topping both Crosby and Ovechkin, and he turned it down.
Should the Devils become economically capable of giving the same amount, would he want to play in front of a half-empty Prudential Center, as opposed to quarter full Nassau Coliseum?
Now, the Rangers are not in a great salary cap situation either. They have roughly $9 million in cap space, with Marc Staal and Dan Girardi still to sign. But there is just one thing Glen Sather needs to do, and the problem will be solved. We all know what it is– waive Wade Redden.
Should the Rangers get rid of Redden, and trade Brashear as well, the Rangers could not only be able to easily sign Kovalchuk, but be able to give Staal $4.5 million, and Girardi $2.5 million. Kovalchuk will not get anything close to $10 million a year.
Joe Aiello acknowledges that the deal he gets would have to be similar to what Marian Gaborik has, which is $7.5 million a year. Lets stop pretending that players do not care what their teammates are making. They do, and they get jealous. Making Kovalchuk he highest paid player on the Rangers has a chance to start animosity in the locker room. But if he was paid identical to Gaborik, it would be fine.
Kovalchuk also wants job security. In order to make him happy, the Rangers could give him a thirteen year deal worth $97.5 million, as Joe suggests. This would be very un-Sather like, but this is a new age in the NHL, one where salaries are structured as such. Each year until he turns 35, he could get paid $10 million per season, then the remaining $17.5 could be spread throughout the final five years of the contract, taking him until he turns forty years old.
The Rangers would be fools to not consider bringing him in, or at least making an offer. One would have to think that something is going down, because there is hardly any market for Kovalchuk, and the next step would be the KHL, and I seriously doubt that he wants to play there, because they could have made him the highest paid player in the world, and he w0uld have signed there already.
Keep in mind that the longer a player goes without signing, the less money they get. That is just how it always works out, year after year. No one knows how long it will take, but we will see very soon where he chooses to ink his name, and I would consider the Rangers a top contender for his services.