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September 14, 2010

What the Devils Lost For Ilya Kovalchuk

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With the 2010 – 11 NHL Season right around the corner, the league has imposed sanctions on the New Jersey Devils. They came down hard on the Devils for attempting to deliberately circumvent the salary cap in their initial attempt to sign Ilya Kovalchuk. It was announced on Monday that Devils will be fined $3 million, they lose their third round draft pick in this years entry draft as well as a first round pick in one of the next four drafts.

Fortunately for the Devils, they get to decide which year they give up the 1st rounder. That is quite a benefit for the Devils because they are likely to contend for a playoff spot and can opt to give up a low first rounder. The $3 million dollars from the fine goes to the league’s charity, the NHL Foundation. It was previously speculated that the Devils would also lose 3 million dollars of cap space for the fine, but that sanction has not been imposed. The NHL now considers the matter closed, and there will be no further actions taken against the Devils.

The situation arose after the Devils signed Kovalchuk to a controversial contract. The NHL rejected the deal, and the matter was sent to arbitration. An independent arbitrator, Richard Bloch, ruled that the 17-year, $102 million contract that Kovalchuk and the Devils agreed to in July attempted to circumvent the NHL’s salary cap. The deal was seen as a “circumvention” because it was heavily front-loaded with Kovalchuk earning $95 million over the first 10 years of the deal, but only $7 million over the final seven seasons. This was an attempt to reduce Kovalchuk’s cap hit to $6 million a year. If the deal wasn’t rejected, Kovalchuk would be 44-years old when the contract expired. It was evident that they added the last couple of years to lower the hit, as Ilya likely won’t play past 40.

The NHL approved the Devils’ second contract offer, a 15-year, $100 million contract. This only happened after NHLPA made several major concessions on lengthy deals such as the one signed by Kovalchuk. Other contracts were also under review, like the ones signed by Marc Savard, Roberto Luongo, and Marian Hossa, but none of the other contracts were seen as a circumvention.

This may not be finalized, as the Devils have the right to appeal the punishment to the NHL’s board of governors. However, it is not yet known if they will challenge the penalties. Devils president and GM Lou Lamoriello responded to the penalties. He simply reiterated that the Devils acted in good faith, and had no further comments on the situation.

I am sure that the Devils are happy to put an end to the controversy, but was the price that they paid for Kovalchuk worth it? New Jersey originally traded for Kovalchuk, along with Anssi Salmela and a 2nd-round draft pick in 2010 before the trade deadline with the hopes that Kovalchuk would bolster their attack for a lengthy playoff run. The Devils sent talented forward Niclas Bergfors, defenceman Johnny Oduya, prospect Patrice Cormier and their first and second round picks in 2010 to the Thrashers.

Kovalchuk did his part in the post season, but the Devils ultimately lost to Philly in the first round. I’d say that the Devils overpaid for Kovalchuk’s services. They didn’t need him for the playoffs last year, as he alone couldn’t get them out of the 1st round anyway. I think that the Devils should have kept their talent, and tried to obtain him in free agency this year. However, the argument can be made that he may have resigned with the Devils only because they traded for him at the deadline, so ultimately the Devils got a Rocket Richard trophy winner for the rest of his career.

So what do you think? Is Kovalchuk worth what New Jersey gave up for him?

-Niklas Bergfors a potential 30 goal scorer
-Johnny Oduya a top four defenseman in the NHL

-Prospect Patrice Cormier who projects to be a top 9 NHL forward
-2010 1st, 2nd, and 3rd round draft picks
-$3 million dollars
-AND another 1st round pick within the next 4 years

-The Devils are now 3 million OVER the cap, and will have to trade away some more talent.

There have been rumours that the Devils are shopping Jamie Langenbrunner, Dainius Zubrus, and Brian Rolston so they can get under the cap.  The Devil’s losses are mounting.  In my opinion, it will hurt even more in the long run.  They still have to sign their new franchise player and superstar, Zach Parise next year.  They may not have enough money to keep him in Jersey with Kovalchuk under contract.  I would rather have Parise than Kovalchuk any day.  So you all have my opinion.  I don’t think a one dimensional pure scorer is worth it, but U Be the Critic. What do you think?

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