After participating in the playoffs for only the second time in his career, Ilya Kovalchuk just may be on the move again.
Rumors have already started circulating indicating that New Jersey may not sign Kovalchuk to the rich contract he is seeking.
It became obvious that Kovalchuk did not want to re-sign with Atlanta when he turned down an offer of over $100 million to stay in a Thrashers uniform.
The New Jersey Devils offered, and the Thrashers accepted, an intriguing combination of players and a first round draft selection.
Kovalchuk finished the regular season in a Devils uniform averaging close to a point per game.
When the playoffs began the team, management and coaching staff had high hopes that Kovalchuk and his considerable offensive talent would carry the Devils deep into the Stanley Cup playoffs. After all, that is the reason the perennial playoff participants obtained the Russian-born forward.
Then things seemed to go wrong. Kovalchuk and his new team started to play more like the Atlanta Thrashers than the New Jersey Devils.
Kovalchuk, to his credit, was the leading point-getter for his new team, but he also created unspoken controversy. He did not adapt to the defense-first, checking style that has been the Devils' trademark.
He also showed the same individualist style that he frequently displayed in Atlanta.
Consistent players like Zach Parise and team captain Jamie Langenbrunner all of a sudden started to become inconsistent, blowing scoring opportunities and missing checking assignments.
Strangely, the team seemed to jump out of sync when most other teams were finding synergy.
The Philadelphia Flyers, a team that struggled to make the playoffs and was trounced by the Kovalchuk-less Thrashers twice in a row at the end of the regular season, upset the Devils and held Kovalchuk in check the entire series.
The Flyers hit everything moving, skated holes in the ice, and blocked shots with their heads when necessary.
After the final game was over, an emotionally drained Jacques Lemaire lamented to the media about the team's early playoff exit. When asked if the team should sign Kovalchuk for the upcoming season, Lemaire acknowledged that the team needed offensive players of Kovalchuk’s ability.
There is no way to know what spurred the 16-year successful NHL coach and former player to resign without warning.
Lemaire even surprised GM Lou Lamoriello and thousands of fans with his announcement.
So far, no one knows whether he called it a career because he knew Kovalchuk was going to stay or because he was going to leave.
The surety is Lamoriello has some tough decisions to make well before the start of the 2011 season.
Ilya Kovalchuk also has to decide a few things, including the commitments he will need to make before he signs his next contract.
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