Sidney Crosby and Jordan Staal or BOTH Sedin twins. The first combination is a duo of centers that anchored the Pittsburgh Penguins to Stanley Cup immortality in 2009. The latter, is telepathy, creativity and magic on ice. They make up two-thirds of the most productive first line in the NHL; earning brother Henrik the Conn Smythe Award (most points in a season) and Art Ross Trophy (NHL MVP) in 2010. That’s what you can get for the amount of money Ilya Kovalchuk is asking (about $10 million against the cap per-season).
So what do you get out of Kovalchuk you might ask? Well for starters a minus 75 career +/- rating. Sure, he has the most goals in the NHL since he began in 2001 (338 G 304 A). But we're talking about a guy who back-checks lazier than NBA defenses. $10 million/yr for a guy who doesn’t kill penalties, or fails lead by example or gusto. The amount of money he is asking, along with his ability to logjam all other free agency signings is a clear indication of his self-centeredness in a sport where that mind-set doesn’t translate into wins.
The New Jersey Devils thought that his services was worth their wild when they sent formidable NHL talent to Atlanta at the deadline. Ilya scored 10 goals in 27 regular season games for the Devils, but it wasn’t enough to get the 2nd place Devils out of the first round of the playoffs. Ilya fans will say it wasn’t all his fault, and they're right. But you can be sure at $10 million per season, they will.
In an age where every dollar under the salary cap is precious, can any one team afford to pay Kovalchuk 2 million more than fellow Russian, Alex Ovechkin? The league's most exciting player, and player who sells more tickets and generates more buzz in the NHL than anyone else.
The hockey world waits on edge for Kovalchuk's decision, just as NBA fans waited for Lebron. The difference is, James was worth the wait.