So it was July 19th that we got word Kovalchuk was coming to town, for a very long time. On July 20th, we introduced him and his mega-long-term contract to the fans on the Devils. That night, the league said not so fast and now 3 weeks later we should pretend that none of this ever happened. Kovalchuk is once again a free agent after Richard Bloch ruled in favor of the NHL.
When I heard that the arbitrator sided with the NHL in the Kovalchuk case, I would like to say that I wasn’t surprised but I was because of all the reports last week of NHL know-it-alls saying the Devils couldn’t possibly lose this case. So we are back to square one, wondering where Ilya Kovalchuk will land. How bad will it look for the league if he signs elsewhere in the NHL or takes his show on the road to KHL?
The arbitrator was correct with his ruling. Signing a guy who’s 27 to a 17 year contract is absurd. There are a lot of people arguing that a guy is very able to play in the NHL at the age of 44 and while it has been done in the past and close to happening now, it isn’t very likely. Most guys in this league retire before the age of 44. Yes, there are contracts out there similar to the Kovalchuk one that have been allowed through but after Hossa signed last summer, the league basically said to stop. We didn’t, we pushed it, we lost. To me, it is that black and white. This has nothing to do with Kovalchuk signing in NJ, like I’ve been reading. I would like to think if this were Sidney Crosbey signing the same deal, it also would have gotten slapped down by the league.
So now what? The Devils now get to compete again for the services of Kovalchuk. I ultimately believe that he will sign in NJ if he is to play in the NHL. If he is all about the money, then he will head to the KHL but other teams, like the Kings have made some moves since Kovalchuk signed this contract, which doesn’t prevent them from signing Kovalchuk but certainly makes it seem less likely. I personally, stand by what I wrote a month ago. When Kovalchuk was coming to NJ at a cap hit that wouldn’t cost us too much or require to ship too much out of town, I was ok with it but that is clearly not going to be the case, so I am not a big proponent for bringing Kovalchuk into NJ. With that said, Lou and Company have begun renegotiating with Kovalchuk.