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.