Well the saga of Ilya Kovalchuk is now getting a little more interesting due to a very public entrance by the New York Islanders into the fray last night. According to a number of sources including Darren Dreger, their offer to the star sniper is in the neighborhood of ten years and $100 million. Yikes, didn't they learn anything from the Alexei Yashin fiasco? Clearly they're desperate to make a splash though, after being rebuffed despite making the highest offer to both defensemen Paul Martin and Dan Hamhuis and given the fact they're still several million under the salary floor they certainly have the cap space to do something ridiculous.
So what of the Kings and the Devils? Information is still sketchy but according to Mark Everson of the Post he's sitting on two similar offers of around $7 million per year from both teams, as well as the widely reported Islander offer. Yet for every five rumors about what Kovalchuk has and hasn't been offered by whom, none have been proven or disproven yet (yikes, now I'm talking like Lou). One thing that does seem certain at this point is Kovy's not going to the KHL. Not if he has a $100 million offer in the States, that would be beyond flaky. To their immense credit, Kovy and his agent Jay Grossman are now just sitting by quietly and patiently waiting for the market to develop.
Seemingly now the choice is obvious, either look like a hypocrite and take a similar offer from the Islanders that he turned down from the Thrashers months ago citing the need to go to a winner, or take tens of millions less to actually go where he wants to go (and whether that's New Jersey or Los Angeles is again, anyone's guess). Honestly at this point I wouldn't begrudge him one bit to go for the money, not when the difference is at least $30-40 million in all likelihood between the contracts. It would really show some chutzpah for him to turn that down and go either here or LA for far less, since leaving that kind of money on the table is basically unprecedented. Especially since neither us or the Kings are exactly the Penguins or Blackhawks in terms of recent success post-lockout.
Still it would be nice if this saga was resolved by the end of the holiday weekend so we can get on with our lives. As hockey fans we've all become conditioned to expect the big UFA's to be off the board within twenty-four hours, in fact the only one who I can think of offhand that took a few days was (cough) Scott Niedermayer. And we all know how that turned out, star Devil free agent bolts to go out west though at least Kovy doesn't have family in LA...well, none that I know about anyway. Plus given Lou's promises for big change, the Devils' precarious cap situation and logjam of stay-at-home defensemen, it feels like we're in a holding pattern now waiting for Kovy to decide.
Of course there's still more than two months to go before camp starts and three before the regular season, not that I think this will drag out anywhere near that long but it's something all of us (me included) need a reminder of as this negotiation drags on and on and the palace intrigue alternates between amusing, boring and exciting. One of the funny parts of the Isles' offer is that it came mere hours after Flames GM Darryl Sutter said that Kovy priced himself too high for 'at least 30 NHL teams'. Just more proof that nobody really knows what the heck's going on other than Kovy, his agent and maybe the GM's of the three teams in question.