Kovalchuk the Devil
After weeks of speculation, the contract has been signed. Ilya Kovalchuk is NOT going to Russia to play in the KHL. He's not going to Hollywood to allow his wife to pursue her pop music career. He signed a massive contract to stay with the New Jersey Devils. There were many sports critics and insiders speculating Kovalchuk's ultimate destination. Many had him taking the massive bucks offered to go home to Russia and be the best player overseas. Others said Kovalchuk was a competitor, and wanted to remain in North America in the best hockey league in the world - the NHL. Many then said that it was between 3 teams in the NHL. The Los Angeles Kings, the New York Islanders, and the New Jersey Devils. The Devils traded for Kovalchuk at last year's trade deadline. They thought that by bringing in one of the league's most talented snipers that they would have a legitimate chance to bring home another Cup before Brodeur hangs up his skates. They were wrong. They hit the wall in the first round facing the eventual Easter Conference champs, the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers made the Devils look bad. They abused them physically, and made Brodeur look like the aging human goaltender that he is. Their other stars, Patrik Elias, Zack Parise, and Paul Martin all disappeared, while Kovalchuk played rather well. I guess it was seeing Kovalchuk playing well in the playoffs that prompted Lou Lamoriello to sign him. The Devils rarely hand out long term massive contracts to forwards. The last couple players to receive one, Patrik Elias and Brian Rolston, have been debatable. Elias is their captain, and is undoubtedly talented when healthy, but can't stay off the IR. Rolston was a solid sniper in Minnesota, but has not fared well since coming to NJ and is getting older. Handing Kovalchuk upwards of 100+ million over 17 years is another questionable signing. There is no doubt he is a top of the line sniper and offensive threat. Since being the first overall pick in the NHL draft, he has scored the most overall goals in the league. He will consistently notch 40+ goals, and 80+ points. However, he did so on a horrible team. The Atlanta Thrashers were a bad team for all but one of his seasons there. They qualified for the playoffs only once, and were swept by the Rangers in the first round. Their defense was consistently bad, and this was evident based on the fact that Kovalchuk played big minutes, was never a defensive presence or a big time plus player regardless of the amount of goals he put in the net. Kovalchuk said he signed in NJ to win the cup. That the Devils were his best chance to win it all. If he continues playing with his typical lackadaisical defensive efforts, and scores but ends the season with a big minus rating, is he really improving the team's chances of winning it all? I doubt it. I'd rather give his big minutes to young up and comer Zach Parise who scores a few less goals, but plays two ways and maintains one of the league's best + / - ratings. If the Devils win the cup in the next couple years, I'll bite my tongue and admit I was wrong. BUT if they continue their recent trend of finishing in the top 3 in the East for the regular season, and exiting the playoffs in the first two rounds, maybe I am right. When this season ends, if the Devils are not celebrating a cup win, and are up against the salary cap and can't resign their superstar winger Zach Parise, Lou Lamoriello may be regretting this move BIG TIME. What do you think?