Credit the Devils for working with Ilya to get this done. Full credit to Puck Daddy's own Dmitry Chesnokov, who's been a beast during this monstrosity. Here's the breakdown:
-earns $80 million over first 8 years hitting targeted $10 million average
-earns $15 million the next 2 years totaling 95 of 102 million thru first 10 years of contract
-earns $1 million-per-year over the final 7 years
On what Kovalchuk turned down, Dean Lombardi offered 15 for $80 million. By comparison, prior to being traded out of Atlanta, Ilya rejected a 12-year $101 million deal. Winning turned out to be most important to the 27 year-old fiery Russian with the rocket from the point. He gets his chance to do it in Jersey where Martin Brodeur has two years left on his contract and Zach Parise one before he re-signs. And yes, you know Lou will find a way to get it done. Just as he'll somehow find a magical taker for Brian Rolston.
Also of interest is a solid column from Inside Hockey's own Michelle Kenneth. She covers the team and had an excellent take on why Kovalchuk chose to remain in Newark. Entitled, "Ilya to Remain a Devil," it's a fascinating read. A couple of key aspects we liked:
First, building a team around him was a factor. The Devils moved in that direction and signed a couple of free agents to attract him to the team: Anton Volchenkov and Johan Hedberg. Both players are friends of Kovalchuk. Not only do the two signings make the locker room more comfortable for him, but it is also the beginning of a build around him.
The point about them adding two former teammates in Heds and Volchenkov is dead on. Of course, he wants to win. So, retaining Zach Attack is a must even if many will compare the salary No.9 gets to No.17. And finally, he did take a paycut. Even if it's frontloaded with him getting the desired salary he wanted during his remaining peak years, he did good by the team. A couple of other things she touches on that make sense:
Second, while many believe that inking Kovalchuk will create problems in re-signing Zach Parise next year, part of Kovalchuk’s decision to remain with the Devils is having Parise on board. The rivalries that could exist between the two players are merely a myth. It is very important that Parise remain on the team, because Kovalchuk wants his team to win. Parise is part of that design.
Third, Kovalchuk has repeated numerous times that he would take a paycut if it meant remaining with the Devils. He said it not once, but several times. A few weeks prior to free agency, that was still the same story being repeated. Whatever the offer was from the Devils, Kovalchuk’s decision was not purely based on the amount of money they were offering.
In the true dynamics that is the Los Angeles Kings, as luxurious of an item as Kovalchuk would have been for them, their future would have dwindled in the signing. It was not in their best interests to ink Kovalchuk if it meant giving up their future. That is also a future that would effect Kovalchuk being part of a winning dynasty. That, in itself, would have made the offer from the Kings unattractive.
Kovalchuk wants to be part of a winning team more than anything else. Since Day One with the New Jersey Devils, he loved the philosophy of how important it was to win. Losing was such a big thing to the Devils. With Atlanta, he said that losing was not that big of a deal.
For the Devils, losing is a big deal. You don’t want to be on that end of the spectrum in Devils territory. You might find someone throwing a jar of jelly across the room.
Outstanding point on why LA didn't fit. Even if they'd landed the sniper, it would have screwed them in the long run- forcing them to sell off players a la Chicago and Philly. What we saw with Simon Gagne going to Tampa for a bag of pucks was embarrassing. Nice way to treat the longest tenured Flyer, who really should be staying after how heroic he was in miraculous playoff run. Blame Paul Holmgren. We still can't figure out what he saw in Andrej Meszaros. The other points on the Devils being about winning while Atlanta essentially wasn't speak volumes. Nobody was happy with how this past Spring ended. Kovalchuk and the club had some unfinished business. So, he returns.
Now, we get to see how creative Lou is at finding takers for Rolston, Dainius Zubrus and perhaps Bryce Salvador. The Devs are built to win now. Will securing Kovalchuk finally translate to some post-lockout success?