New Jersey Devils fans need not worry about the speculation that Ilya Kovalchuk would consider re-opening negotiations with the Los Angles Kings or possibly turning to the tax-free millions offered by the KHL. Eventually one way or another, he will be remain in New Jersey whether through a successful fight by the NHL Players' Union or if Lou Lamoriello has to re-work the deal from scratch.
If the latter is the case, the Devils' GM may have to deal veterans such as Brian Rolston, Danius Zubrus, or possibly even their captain, Jamie Langenbrunner, to accommodate Kovalchuk's rewritten contract. Rolston may be more difficult to trade as he earns $5 million, but either Langenbrunner, at a very affordable $2.8 million, or Zubrus' $3.4 million salary could be easier to move.
Lamoriello is desperate to get his man no matter the consequences as Kovalchuk gives the Devils a much-needed legitimate 40-goal-type scorer. With Martin Brodeur's continued stellar play in net and the Devils' reputation for being a solid defensive team, all that is needed is that elite forward to give New Jersey that extra offensive production.
Kovalchuk seems dead-set on being a Devil as he was impressed by the organization's commitment to building a winning team. Brodeur, even at 38, shows little sign of decline and could give the Russian winger plenty of opportunities to contend for the Stanley Cup throughout the remainder of legendary netminder's career.
When Brodeur does decide to hang up his goalie mask for good, the Devils have the sort of savvy front office personnel to figure out a way of finding an adequate replacement. By then, impressive Albany prospect Jeff Frazee might be ready to step in or 17-year-old 2010 third-round draft pick Scott Wedgewood could be seasoned enough from playing in the minors.
The Los Angeles Kings still maintain an interest in Kovalchuk and would try to tempt the winger with a fresh offer if the union's fight for the original deal with the Devils becomes unsuccessful. A host of Russian clubs would also be ready to pounce on the 27-year-old with their tax-free millions.
Unlike Evgeni Nabokov, who rejected the defending Eastern Conference Champion Philadelphia Flyers for the KHL, Kovalchuk's motivation is more about winning than money. Devils fans have little to fear as he will most definitely be an official member of their team long before they open their preseason schedule in Philadelphia on September 21.
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