What does Ilya Kovalchuk have in common with Ferraris and yachts? They’re all on many wish lists, but very few can realistically afford them.
We’re all aware of his talent, but do his demands outweigh his ability? He is a two-time 50-goal scorer, has six consecutive seasons of over 75 points, and is a threat to score on nearly every rush up ice. That is all well and good, but does it warrant his demands of $10 million per year? NHL insiders give a resounding "no."
As New Jersey has found, moreover, he doesn’t easily fit into every system.
After the blockbuster trade last season, Kovy was averaging a point a game, and scoring a goal every 2.7 games. Those are numbers 98 percent of the league is envious of. Before the trade, however, he was averaging almost 1.2 points a game and a goal every 1.6 games.
Translation: Ilya Kovalchuk loves to be the center of attention.
In New Jersey, he didn’t have to be “The Man.” The Devils already had good scoring in the form of Zach Parise and Patrik Elias. Not having that pressure, some will say, allowed him to get lazy and lose the edge he displayed in Atlanta for so many years.
Kovalchuk is the Ferrari in this year’s free agent class, but who among the 30 teams can fit his contract wishes into their salary cap? Only two teams are willing to step up so far.
New Jersey is doing all they can to keep Kovy, but he wants to test the market. The team believes that, despite his defensive liabilities, a full season in the Devils’ defensive system will make him more comfortable and successful. Kovy isn’t so sure.
LA has both the cap space and system to suit Kovalchuk. The Kings’ forte is pressuring the puck in the opponents end, and playing as much in the offensive zone as possible. With him, they hope to make a deeper playoff run. Can you imagine a line consisting of Anze Kopitar, Ilya Kovalchuk and Dustin Brown? Kings faithful can.
I can assure you, much to the chagrin of Kovy and his agent, neither team will come close to the $10mil he is looking for. Kovalchuk will have to think long and hard: does he want to play for a contender, or sign a massive contract?
The KHL has put a $42 million, three year contract on the table, but Kovalchuk has turned it down. Maybe that’s a sign.
The dark horse in all of this is Atlanta. They have over $20 million in cap space, a much better core of players, and Kovy already knows everyone in that front office. It would be a comfortable landing spot, should the Thrashers want to lay down that kind of money. Like Chicago signing Marian Hossa around this time last year, stranger things have happened.