2010 NHL Free Agency: Ilya Kovalchuk, Who Wants Him?

Derrick LightfootContributor IJuly 6, 2010

VANCOUVER, BC - FEBRUARY 24:  Ilya Kovalchuk #71 of Russia controls the puck during the ice hockey men's quarter final game between Russia and Canada on day 13 of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics at Canada Hockey Place on February 24, 2010 in Vancouver, Canada.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Sometimes the big fish free agent takes his time to decide where to sign. In the NHL, we haven't really seen this in the past few years, as Daniel Briere, Scott Gomez, Chris Drury, Brian Campbell, Marian Gaborik, Marian Hossa, etc. all wrapped up their deals in the first couple of days of free agency.

Kovalchuk is taking his time in making a decision. His agent Jay Grossman tweeted on Monday, "Ilya Kovalchuk looking to make decision on his future today." Everyone stood on their heels, but alas a late night tweet again from Grossman stated, " Ilya Kovalchuk choices have been narrowed down, details to be finalized but no announcement tonight..."

Kovalchuk turned down an offer of around 10 years and $100 million. It seemed he didn't agree with the management in Atlanta and wanted out. He was shipped to the New Jersey Devils near the trade deadline last season. He then had a sub-par playoffs as the Devils got bounced by the Flyers in the first round in six games.

Soon enough, Kovalchuk will find a team, but at this time I think his motives and drive are being questioned.

Guys like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin took a pay cut so the Penguins could allocate money elsewhere and Hossa front-loaded his contract so the cap hit is less so the Blackhawks can do the same. Kovalchuk doesn't really want any of that. He doesn't want a front-loaded contract, which is quite understandable as he is only 27 years old, and doesn't want to be making significantly less money when he is say, 33 years old.

Still, I'd say his desire to win is to be questioned. While it seems he will stay in the NHL, there was interest on his part to bolt to the KHL for the fat paycheck. I think his motivation and determination could come into question—does he truly want a Cup? Is he willing to give it his all to hoist Lord Stanley's Cup?

Understand that I am not complaining that Kovalchuk isn't taking a four-year, $3 million contract, but if he truly wanted a Cup, he would probably be a Los Angeles King already. I'm sure the Kings didn't lowball Kovy—the offer may be less than other offers, but if he really wanted that Cup, the Kings would be the most viable option. A lot of cap space, a really good young core, in the next few years there is no doubt the Kings will be contenders, and adding Kovalchuk could propel them to that status next year.

(Reports say the Kings are out, but some have pointed out that if the Kings were truly out they would just stop bidding and not announce it to the media. It could also be Kovalchuk playing hardball. Don't count out LA, but it seems the Devils are the front-runners.)

Kovalchuk is massively talented, but I think there is that slim chance he coasts a bit with his new fat contract in place. He will still put up large numbers, and honestly his poor showing in last year's playoffs was partially due to the stellar play of opposing goaltender Brian Boucher.

Hopefully this saga gets sorted out soon, as I am sure people are getting restless waiting on his decision, but have patience—his decision will have a huge impact on him and his family.

We will have to wait and see if Kovalchuk is in it for the love of the game, or the love of money.