Kovalchuk Worth a Try For Maple Leafs

Bleacher ReportContributor IMay 31, 2010

NEWARK, NJ - APRIL 22:  Ilya Kovalchuk #17 of the New Jersey Devils skates against the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Prudential Center at on April 22, 2010 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Is it really all about the money with Ilya Kovalchuk? Or is the Russian sniper simply looking for a great situation?

I’m not sure Brian Burke can offer either come July 1st, but I’ll use the cliche disclaimer; “anything can happen” for this article.

The Leafs general manager mentioned in January that he wouldn’t even think of calling Atlanta GM Don Waddell at the time because, as Burke put it “We’re not interested in that amount of money, over that term”

Burke was eluding to the rumor that Kovalchuk had turned down an offer of at least 64 million over 8 seasons (8.0 mill cap hit) to stay in Atlanta. You could tell Burke’s main beef was with the term.

Lou Lamoriello, Burke’s mentor and friend, gladly forked over a barrel of young talent to acquire Kovalchuk, and now he’s trying his damnedest to re-sign him.

Lamoriello has stated that he was impressed with Kovalchuks’ ability to fit in easily with the rest of his club right from the get-go. Lou also exclaimed that he views Kovalchuk as a team first player, and a great hockey personality.

So if the Godfather can’t re-sign him, will the protege step in and give it a try?

Burke has said before that five years is the most he’ll commit to a player, and believes Kovalchuk is looking for one of those ridiculous offers of ten years plus.

But let’s keep in mind, that was in Atlanta. Things have changed since January and Burke no longer needs to deal anything from his cupboard to get rights to Kovalchuk once July 1st rolls around.

Let’s say Burke is about 90% truthful about staying at five years max, and Kovalchuk indeed wants about eight million dollars per season.

What about 7.8 per season over six years… is that too unimaginable?

“Kovalchuk turned down over 8 million per year in Atlanta you idiot”

Fair enough. But I really think Kovalchuk simply wanted out of Atlanta anyway, and no amount of money was keeping him there.

If he is indeed a great hockey personality like Lamoriello claims, he may actually want to play hockey in a great market with a team going in the right direction.

The Leafs fit that description (at least to us fans) right now, but so do the LA Kings. And they are the most likely pursuers of Kovalchuk in the off-season.

Not enough money? Make the room if you have to.

The league just announced that the cap will go up by 2 million next season, rather than the 900k increase that was speculated last month.

Should talks fall out with New Jersey or Los Angeles for whatever reason, Burke should have an offer on the table. Whether Kovalchuk picks it up or not is up to him, but at least give him the option.

You’d think Phil Kessel would shoulder the load for goals over the next few seasons, but he can’t do it all himself.

Elite teams have more than one major scorer, and the Leafs can’t put all their hopes in Kessel to do everything.

Kovalchuk put up Kessel's 2009-10 numbers in less games as a rookie teenager. Since then he has literally torn it up every season. The stats speak for themselves. The guy has hit 50+ goals twice and 40+ goals six times in his career. Did I mention he's only 27?

Big, fast, strong and feisty. With Kovalchuk you get one of the top five pure scorers in the league over the past decade.

I wrote in a past article that I didn’t believe Kovalchuk was a good fit for the Leafs because of his attitude. But Lou Lamoriello has since told us different, and I’ll take his word over mine any day.

A lot of Leafs fans think it’s unrealistic to think Kovalchuk can ever suit up in a blue & white sweater. While I admit it’s unlikely, I think Kovalchuk doubters will change their tune quite quickly if it ever did happen. He has to go somewhere.

Everyone is looking for that top line forward to turn the Leafs around. Look no further. Even if the price tag is a little high.

Email maplestirup@gmail.com


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