Is Ilya Kovalchuk Worth the Price?

Kevin FreiheitContributor IJuly 12, 2010

As we sit here waiting for the Ilya Kovalchuk sweepstakes to end, the rumors continue to circulate around the NHL. Once he is signed, the dominoes are expected to begin falling. Teams will be trading and signing free agents again, filling up rosters with any unused cap space.

For now, general managers are sitting still waiting for someone to sign the Russian forward. How much is Kovalchuk actually worth?

Signing a long term contract is a huge risk for any team. The Islanders singed Rick DiPietro to a 15-year contract, but we have yet to see that pay off. DiPietro has started 12 games in the past two years, but still has plenty of time to live up to his deal.

Being the first overall pick in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft immediately brought high expectations for DiPietro. Then, signing a ridiculous long-term contract brightened the spotlight.

One year later, in 2001, Kovalchuk was selected with the No. 1 overall pick by the Atlanta Thrashers. His statistics were quite impressive as he put up 51 points in his rookie season. Since then, he has collected at least 67 points in each of his last seven seasons.

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His best season came in 2005-06, when he racked up 98 points in 78 games, along with 56 power play points and seven game winning goals.

Kovalchuk has proved that he will live up to the high expectations with his consistent offensive abilities. He can easily become the center of any franchise, but who will pay for him?

Whoever does sign Kovalchuk should be extremely cautious. The seven-year, $100 million dollar contract he is rumored to be looking for would not be the way to go.

While he has shown how good he is, Kovalchuk is not worth that much money, at least not yet. NHL players should be paid based on how well they have done in the last few years with that team.

I understand that it would be nice to know that Kovalchuk is locked up long-term, and I would be excited if he were on my team. But it would just take one injury to affect his career.

What has he done so far? At this point he is a scoring forward that will earn 80-90 points per year. He has also scored 642 points in 621 career games.

If you were a general manager, how much would you be willing to sign Kovalchuk for?