When Ilya Kovalchuk became an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2010, many expected the demand for the Russian sniper to outweigh the number of days it would take for a suitor to sign him. There were rumblings of an impending decision as early as July 6. Then there were tales of an off again, on again Kovy courting by the Los Angeles Kings.  In the end, it seems as though those rumours of a 17-year contract weren’t so exaggerated.

On Monday, the New Jersey Devils announced via Twitter that they had finalized an agreement with Ilya Kovalchuk.  A press conference is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon to make the marriage official.  Despite a less than noticeable finish to his brief time in New Jersey last season, another underwhelming playoff performance, and fundamental philosophical differences of commitment to defence – Kovalchuk will likely be a member of the Devils for the rest of his natural hockey-playing life.

Just when it seemed as though Dean Lombardi and the Kings were on the inside track to land the two-time 52-goal scorer, Lou Lamoriello swooped in and managed to head-off any change of location plans by Kovalchuk and his agent Jay Grossman.  Was it a snub? Hardly.  If we have learned anything over the course of the last 18 days it was that dealings with Kovalchuk only offered a promise of uncertainty.

It’s hard to fault Kovalchuk for the exasperating saga that he orchestrated; he held out for what he wanted until someone was crazy enough to give it to him.  If indeed the rumours of a 17-year contract are true, then the Devils signing of Kovalchuk will easily become one of the most heavily scrutinized deals in the history of the game.  Speculation is pointing to Kovalchuk being retained at a very reasonable $6.5M-$7M, but the weight of a 17-year contract could propose more trouble in the end than it’s worth.

Comments (9)

  1. Hard to know if this is a good thing for the Devils or not. Kovalchuk did a good job after he was traded. But will his offense ever be good enough to warrant the contract as long as the Devils are a defense first team? That’s probably the biggest question mark here. There’s no doubt he’ll put up a good number of points but will it be enough to make him a $7 mil player? Time will tell.

  2. I’m not too upset that the Kings missed out on him – this whole saga may have firmly planted him into the “more trouble than he’s worth” category.

    Would he have made the Kings better this year? Yes. Five years from now… I don’t know.

    But the league needs to cut down these B.S. long-term contracts. Just because I pay someone $1M / season between ages 42 and 47 doesn’t mean that the cap hit should be discounted that much.

  3. I’m upset that this article has not yet generated a flame-war of comments… Your work must be slipping from earlier this morning Scott.

  4. @Greg I was unable to reach Kovalchuk for comment, all I wanted to know was whether or not he’s a Billy Talent fan.

  5. These ridiculously long contracts are going to ruin the game. The Islanders have been paying Rick DiPietro millions of dollars to rehab himself for the past couple years and he will probably never play a major role in the team again. These top heavy contracts have to go. I hope for the Devils’ sake that Ilya will play until he is at least 38 but once he turns 35 I doubt his motivation will be there. I think he will take the money and run,

  6. Dutch: The thing is, the most recent contracts are mandated by cap considerations, which I understand but think is a bit of a cheat of the system.

    DiPietro’s deal was pre-lockout. That was nothing more than the Isles being stupid; same thing with Yashin.

  7. Stephen: That’s why I’m surprised that Kovy didn’t end up with the Isles. Before today they were the only team audascious (stupid?) enough to try these types of contracts.

  8. to long for a contract he’ll go and he’ll see players come and go but eventually he will want out before 17 years is up.

  9. Lamorillo sold out the devil’s future for immediate success. Was it the right move? probably not but what is a GM to do when they have a roster of aging stars and not many noteworthy prospects to replace them with. Kovalchuk was negotiating from a very powerful position and held out for exactly what he wanted which was money not necessarily years. Kovy wanted 100 million and the only way Lou could have given him that kind of money was to make it a very long term deal to lower the annual cap hit. As soon as Kovy stops producing you can expect him to be put on waivers and sent down to Lowell in the AHL to serve out the rest of his contract. We won’t see him traded again that is for certain.

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