Well two days ago it looked like this was the beginning of the end (finally) of the Ilya Kovalchuk saga with various reports that he was ready to sign a new deal with the Devils. Especially considering Lou Lamoriello, Jeff Vanderbeek and agent Jay Grossman visited the NHL offices in New York to present the framework of another deal, which was rumored to be in the neighborhood of 13 years, $91 million. Whatever the terms, the league was supposed to render a decision yesterday and most people - including me, stupidly - figured this would be a fait accompli, that there would be absolutely no way a second deal gets a thumbs down, especially after two weeks plus of working on it.
Well, guess what? It looks like the NHL has once again thrown up a roadblock, with both Mark Everson of the Post and Tom Gulutti of the Record (among others) reporting the NHL has rejected the Devils' latest framework for a contract. Simply unreal. Now at this point I'm getting impatient and annoyed with everyone involved. Especially with less than three weeks to go to camp. I hate to sound like Jet fan Joe Benigno with the Darrelle Revis situation at this point but at this point...JUST GET IT DONE!!!
Of course the league now looks like they're on a total witch hunt to make it as hard as possible for the Devils to sign Kovalchuk. Arbitrator Richard Block's heavy-handed decision gave the league imperial power to decide the validity of all contracts where it didn't exist before, and the league is flexing its muscles big-time now. What would make the league happy, exactly...an $8 million cap hit (resulting in an erstatz $2 million per year fine from the initial contract)? A completely flat contract of $7 million per year? Less than ten years on the deal? Or dragging its feet long enough so that Kovy can't sign with us at all, though unfortunately for Inspector Javert...er, Gary Bettman the Plan B might be going to Russia for year if he can't work out a deal in time for the season.
Admittedly we're no sweet innocents in this fiasco. If anyone though that our first contract proposal was some bizarre psuedo-conspiracy concocted by Lou to force the league to come down on long-term deals, then this round of failed negotiations should prove once and for all that's not the case. Let's face it - there was no reason this deal should even have been close enough for the league to reject, especially since at this point we're bidding against ourselves for Kovy.
Even Dean Lombardi in LA can't get his grubby paws involved in driving up the price, since there's no way in this climate the league even approves their rumored initial offer of 15-80, plus the fact he signed Alexei Ponikarovsky, further limiting the Kings' cap space. Nobody else has been truly involved all summer so I admit, when I first heard the 13-91 rumor I was dissapointed. Is anyone else in the NHL even offering half of that?! Not with the apparent lack of interest in Kovy this summer.
As far as Kovy and Grossman, well you tried not once but twice to get your money...it's time to face reality, it just isn't going to happen in this country. Instead of hoping for some 12-96 deal that does get approved, it's time to help the team out a little here. It was going to be hard enough to fit Kovy in under the first two deals.
Our first contract compensated Kovy well ($98.5 million in the first eleven years of the deal) and this one sounded more than fair too. We didn't have to offer as much as we did the second time around but maybe there was a sense of Lou and Vanderbeek trying to do right by the player and not making him pay for the league's tomfoolery. Well now there's got to be some form of compromise by player and agent, if they truly want their client to play here and are committed to not hamstringing this team.
Until multiple people get their heads out of their rear ends here, the waiting game looks like it'll continue right into camp which would be disasterous with a drop-dead date of October 1 (a week before the Devils' opening game) where the Devils can't be over the cap at all, and other players on the team - everyone knows who they are - still in limbo.