2010 NHL Free Agency: The Ilya Kovalchuk Saga Continues

Posted: 11th July 2010 by Derrick Lightfoot in NHL
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The World Cup is over, and I’m not that big into baseball, so the only thing I can cling to sports wise right now is the Kovalchuk saga—but it’s safe to say most want this story to end (the New York Post even reported a Canadian national TV outlet has proposed a LeBron-esque one-hour special as to where he will play, but this is the same post that reported Kovalchuk signed with the Devils a few days ago).

Apparently though, once the Kovalchuk signing concludes, a lot of trades will fall into place.

There were reports earlier that Kovalchuk was going to sign with his off-again, on-again girlfriend the Los Angeles Kings tomorrow, but those have been squashed by Kings GM Dean Lombardi.

Don’t expect a signing tomorrow, but there will be talks between Lombardi and Kovalchuk. Lombardi told TSN, “Ilya is coming to LA for face-to-face discussions, just like any free agent would. We are long way from agreeing on contract.” Kovalchuk is expected to arrive in Los Angeles tonight and to meet with the Kings tomorrow.

Right when it seems there are no updates, we get tidbits like this on the Kovalchuk front. Earlier, there were people saying that the Devils had a whopping 17-year deal worth over $100 million on the table, and the Kings had put forward a similar deal.

These are likely false as now we know the Kings are meeting with Kovy soon, so its doubtful a deal was proposed recently and it is not characteristic of Devils GM Lou Lamoriello to hand out such lucrative deals. Plus, the Devils don’t have the cap for such a deal (though it seems Lamoriello is trying to move some bodies, Brian Rolston’s name being thrown around).

I’m not sure how productive the talks will be between the Kings and Kovalchuk. Who knows if he will budge on his dislike of a front-loaded contract. That will most likely be the giving point—the Kings want and need to save all the cap space they can on this deal.

Drew Doughty is only 20 years old, was one of Team Canada’s best defenseman at the 2010 Winter Olympics and was a Norris Trophy (league’s best defenseman) candidate (I and others think he should have won it over the Blackhawk’s Duncan Keith—can you tell I love this kid?).

The only problem is he is a restricted free agent next summer, and the Kings will look to tie him down for a long time, but they won’t get that done giving him $2 million a year. I doubt he leaves (he bought a house in Los Angeles with another of my favorite players, Wayne Simmonds—also an RFA this year) but it would indeed be a devastating loss for the Kings. They also have the 23-year-old Jack Johnson to sign.

Needless to say, Kovalchuk would be a huge addition for the up-and-coming Kings, and as a Kings admirer, I would love to see him suit up for the team, although I will question his desire to win. He seemed to coast a bit in the playoffs with New Jersey and there is always the worry he will not be the player we are accustomed to once he gets the fat paycheck.

But for a young team like this in need of a top-six forward, Kovalchuk could do wonders, especially with a guy like Anze Kopitar feeding him the puck. Some say the Kings overpaid for Ryan Smyth, and they did a bit, but a top line of Kovalchuk-Kopitar-Smyth would be fantastic, in my opinion.

They’re perfect chemistry types with Kopitar passing the puck, Kovalchuk shooting, and Smyth opening up space for them with his physical play and crashing the net for rebounds.

If the duo of Jonathan Quick and Jonathan Bernier can play at an elite level like they’ve showed they can at points, and Doughty can lead the defense like he did last year, the Kings could be a very serious cup contender next year.

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