Because this is the fifth post I have made with the title, “Around the NHL”, I have decided to make it an official column here on FNYTSF. Normally this series either wraps up or previews a busy day or days in the NHL, but over the last week or so, there has been absolutely nothing going on.
No one can even pretend to have the inside scoop on where Ilya Kovalchuk is heading. The Devils and Kings continue to be the front-runners while the Rangers reportedly offered him a two-year deal worth $15 million last week. Perhaps Kovalchuk himself does not even know where he is headed.
The amount of teams that can afford to pay Kovalchuk anywhere near the neighborhood of what he is asking are limited. They include the above mentioned three teams and the New York Islanders. Meanwhile, the Maple Leafs at one time were whispered to have an interest in him, but they would have to make some moves to afford him, much like the Devils.
Below is every team rumored to be interested in Ilya Kovalchuk, and why he will or won’t sign there:
Los Angeles Kings: They seem to be more active than any other team with Kovalchuk. They can afford him outright but will not sign him to an immense deal because of restricted free agents Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson up for re-signing after this season. Los Angeles would be the ideal location for the big star– it has plenty of glitz and glamor, all while not being in a major, stressful market for hockey. Should he sign there, he could live like a king (no pun intended).
New Jersey Devils: According to Mark Everson and his New York Post write-up where the Devils signed Kovalchuk two weeks ago, the team still has the inside track on him. This may very well be, but the Devils still need to sign two players to reach their forward minimum, and would have to get rid of players to afford Kovalchuk. Unless Lou Lamoriello can find a way to get rid of Brian Rolston, there is no way to sign him without dismantling the team.
Toronto Maple Leafs: One does not know if there was ever any legitimate interest between the two parties, but once upon a time ago, it was spoken of that Burke had an interest in Kovalchuk, and signing him would turn the team completely around. However, Toronto would be the worst possible career choice for a player who has never played with any pressure, or people in the stands watching him. Kovalchuk may want to get more exposure and certainly the Devils and Islanders would not provide that. But Toronto is a hockey-hungry city that does not tolerate losing (ironic considering the past few Maple Leaf teams) and should Kovalchuk sign there and flop, it would make his life a living hell.
New York Islanders: They offered him 10 years at $100 million. He turned it down. Enough said.
New York Rangers: The Rangers may not have the greatest abundance of cap space, but they also would not have to jump through hoops to get him either. All the Rangers would need to do after signing Marc Staal is waive Wade Redden after training camp, and there is the money. This would be the next ideal location next to Los Angeles. Here Kovalchuk would share the spotlight with Gaborik (meaning the pressure is not entirely on him) and he gets to play in the greatest city in the world. Although there is major pressure, it is still nothing compared to what he would face in the Toronto market.