Upon hearing reports that the New York Islanders were among the teams jockeying for the services of Ilya Kovalchuk I had two instantaneous involuntary reactions; 1) That’s crazy and would completely undermine the Isles’ nearly completed “rebuilding” plan, and 2) That’s crazy and the financial Jekyll and Hyde of Charles Wang’s wallet would be enough to make it true.
If you’re a New York Islanders fan the thought of Kovalchuk taking a 10-year, $10 million per season deal probably invokes not-so fond memories of Wang-funded contracts from years gone by. Calling either of the epically disastrous Alexei Yashin deal, or Garth Snow’s blunder with Rick Dipietro’s 15-year contract a ‘mistake’ would be an understatement on the ‘John Kordic was just a casual user’ scale.
Depending on who you listen to, the whole idea of Kovy to the Isles reeked of bullsh*t from the beginning. There’s also the notion that Garth Snow has Wang’s blessing to bluff the Islanders into contention for other big name free agents with the illusion of a legitimate push for Kovalchuk. Like Puck Daddy’s Sean Leahy, I think that has benefits for both parties. Kovalchuk to the Islanders as a reality, though? The financial standing of the Islanders in regards to the salary cap floor could be negated by signing Kovalchuk, but it’s still a bit of a stretch given the club’s commitment to rebuilding among a whole host of other reasons.
Throw in a couple of completely unsubstantiated reports from a Russian website claiming the Avalanche and Flyers are Kovy suitors, and the circus tent encompassing Ilya Kovalchuk is just a dancing bear short of full-blown spectacle. The most talked about destinations for Kovalchuk remain the L.A. Kings and the New Jersey Devils at this point, although a quiet weekend brought about little more than speculation. Still, an active bidding war for a guy with 642 points in 621 games wouldn’t be much of a stretch for the imagination. More so, it should be expected, even if his backchecking makes Phil Kessel’s look like that of Doug Jarvis.
At this point, four days into free agency, there appears to be only one certain truth in the Kovalchuk sweepstakes: it’s going to take a pile of money to land him. If a full-scale bidding war opens up in the coming days, the potential for the New York Islanders to sign Ilya Kovalchuk could become much more than just a ploy to lobby interest around the club and its dreams of a Lighthouse.
I’m not ready to believe this is the end of the Kovy to L.A. rumblings, but it appears as though the Kings are backing off after Kovalchuk’s camp said “no”. One man’s garbage could be Charles Wang’s treasure, or something like that…