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Ilya Kovalchuk Doesn’t Deserve To Go To A Winner ‘Cause He’s Clearly A Loser

07/04/10
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I spent about an hour last night debating with myself over Ilya Kovalchuk’s most-likely destination before finally settling on the Los Angeles Kings. It took some salary cap studying, rumor analysis, and roster juggling, but I thought I had formulated the most attractive signing scenario for Kovalchuk. Then, he told them no.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the Gagne to Los Angeles rumors sounded almost like an attempt to bait Kovalchuk into lowering his asking price. Let’s go through all the numbers to see how it’d work out.

The LA Kings are over $17M under the cap ceiling with 16 players signed (8 forwards, 6 defensemen, and 2 goaltenders) and one buyout. There are three openings at LW and one at 4th line C – that’s it. If the Gagne to LA rumors prove true, it’s an unabashed salary dump so I’d expect one of Davis Drewiske or Peter Harrold to go to Philly with picks for the scoring Quebecois. This would, in turn, open up room for Colten Teubert to finally make the team and bolster an already-fantastic defense corps. These two moves would take about $6M off the available cap space. I’d also expect Jonathan Bernier and Erik Ersberg to swap places, giving the Kings possibly the scariest young goaltending tandem in the league (the salary cap impact difference would be taking on about $150K). One would expect that Dean Lombardi could’ve used these moves to really appeal to Kovalchuk’s desire to win and ask him to lower his asking price to $8M over any term. From there, Lombardi could sign a couple of scrubs to play on his fourth line for cheap to round out the roster.

Think about this for a second, as it’s really quite scary. The Kings’ new line combinations would be Kovy/Kopitar/Brown, Gagne/Handzus/Williams, Smyth/Stoll/Simmonds, and XXXXX/XXXXX/Parse;the new defensive pairings shaking out to be Doughty/Johnson, Scuderi/Greene, and Drewiske-Harrold/Teubert. Damn. Their goaltending tandem of Quick and Bernier would be impressive as hell. It wouldn’t be an all-in season either, with Handzus and Williams departing opening up salary room for Doughty, Johnson, and Simmonds to get extended. Youngster Brayden Schenn would immediately step into the #2 C position, leaving the only position of importance a question mark the #2 RW. Plus, Quick and Bernier would be together on their cheapie deals for a few seasons. It could lead to a long stretch of dominance in the Western Conference for the Kings after all of their slow, methodical buildings from within.

But instead, Ilya Kovalchuk refuses to back down from his 10 years at $10M per demands. He rebuffed Lombardi and the Kings today and will continue to do so until he receives his $100M deal, it seems. So far, only the Islanders have the kind of space and chutzpah to attempt such a bid, and this time it wouldn’t appear to be as dangerous a situation as what Alexei Yashin and Rick DiPietro are putting them through. On the contrary, it would put an end to the rumors that Charlie Wang put the team up for sale and it would signal to the fans that they mean business. They would be able to blow up the team during the summer of 2011 and re-shape it in a new image. But at the cost of a $10M winger?

Me, I hope he doesn’t get a single legitimate offer for the $100M that he wants, and is either forced via league-wide rejection to lower his bid to something slightly more reasonable or to flee across the Pacific to play in the KHL. People didn’t think when Kovalchuk demanded his trade out of Atlanta that it was about the money, because he was offered league maximum to stay on that terrible team. Instead, he got traded to the always-great Devils with a chance to succeed. Now, it’s about the money again. What a selfish, arrogant route to take, turning down the chance to play on a team that could be stacked for years because he’s got dollar signs in his eyes and he’s blind to everything else available to him.

Good riddance, Ilya. Go collect your tax-free millions overseas if it comes down to it, because you’re clearly too self-obsessed to see the forest through the trees. The Kings are better off without you at this point, anyways.

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