According to Mark Everson of the New York Post, the New Jersey Devils appear to be the front runners to sign unrestricted free agent Ilya Kovalchuk.
Everson cites a source that suggests the deal will be for $60 million over seven years, which is far less than the New York Islanders rumored deal of $100 million over 10 years.
Kovalchuk, who was rumored to be headed to the Los Angeles Kings last Friday, rejected that offer over the weekend, leaving the New York Islanders and Devils as the front runners in the sweepstakes for the NHL's top free agent.
While this deal has yet to be announced by the Devils or Kovalchuk’s agent, it makes sense on the surface, especially if Kovalchuk is longing for a Stanley Cup.
Though the Devils were unable to get past the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round of the playoffs after trading for the former Thrashers star, New Jersey owns one of the better defense’s in the NHL and a Hall of Fame calibre goaltender in Marty Brodeur, which gives it a chance to hoist the Stanley Cup this season and beyond.
By keeping Kovalchuk, it would greatly enhance any chance of the Devils making a long run in the 2010-11 playoffs and make New Jersey one of the favorites (if not the favorite) to come out of the Eastern Conference.
The Devils have already added some key unrestricted free agents, including defensemen Anton Volchenkov (six years, $25.5 million) and Henrik Tallinder (4 years, $13.5 million).
Both defensemen offer a huge upgrade in shot-blocking and toughness—two areas the Devils were lacking in last season and that were exposed by the bigger/tougher Flyers in the first round of last years Stanley Cup playoffs.
Stay tuned. It looks as though the Kovalchuk signing will be official very soon.
For more NHL news and notes (including an exclusive look at the benefits of the Toronto Maple Leafs trading Luke Schenn) check out my website at
Until next time,