Michelle Kenneth Thinks the Devils are Getting Ready for Kovalchuk

Are the Devils Building Around Kovalchuk? | INSIDE HOCKEY
Rumors abound that the Los Angeles Kings are the only suitors left in the running for Ilya Kovalchuk. But the only ones reporting that story are the ones who do not cover the New Jersey Devils... the Devils' reporters know differently. [...]

Actually, all I keep reading is that New Jersey is "still interested."

The interesting point to note in [the Devils' UFA signings] that two of those players are represented by Ilya Kovalchuk's agent, Jay Grossman. Volchenkov and Hedberg are also Kovalchuk's buddies. [...] Does this look like the Devils could possibly be building a team around Kovalchuk? [...] It's starting to look like Kovalchuk is making outrageous demands to the Kings in order for LA to even be a consideration.

That sentence doesn't make any sense. But I think what she's trying to say is, IK is making an absurdly high salary demand to keep the Kings' out. Why would he do that? That makes sense when, say, you're still the property of a team and waiting for free agency. But it makes zero sense if you're already a free agent.

It's a guarantee that is not the card that is on the table for the Devils.

i.e. IK has one number for the Kings, and another for the Devils. This assumes that he thinks New Jersey is more likely to be a contender in the long run than the Kings. In the short run (i.e. next year), that may be true. In the long run, that's less supportable. (I say it's crazy, but I'm a Kings fan so take that with a grain of salt.)

But let's look at the actual numbers. [7/6 UPDATE to include latest numbers, Hedberg deal, etc.] New Jersey has $4.2MM $4.7MM in remaining cap space (including their small bonus cushion). They have two players left to sign to get to a minimum allowed active roster of 20. Assume that one is a minimum wager (call it $600K), and the other is IK. So they have $3.6MM $4.1MM with which to sign IK.

But during the summer, you're allowed to go 10% over the cap. So if they spend that, too, you've got $9.5MM $10MM to spend on IK. And that assumes Lamoriello is comfortable going into the season with 12 forwards and 6 defense. And it also assumes Lamoriello will be comfortable spending the rest of the summer shedding salary ($6MM worth - $5.94MM actually) in order to make room. $7MM or more if Lamoriello wants a roster of 22.

If IK has a special Lou-only number in mind, as Kenneth suggests he does, then they could sign him for $7.5MM and only have to shed $4-5MM in salary.

I would have said (actually I have said) that New Jersey doesn't seem like the kind of team to put themselves behind the eight-ball by being forced to shed salary after making a deal. But Kenneth seems to think (and Lamoriello indicated in a recent article which Kenneth linked to via Twitter) that he is in fact open to doing this. So I am going to have to disagree with my previous self and say that New Jersey may well be willing to play that game.

Since Kovalchuk arrived in Devils territory, he has been extremely content with the club and what it has to offer. Finding key players (and friends of Kovalchuk) to add to the roster makes the Devils look even more attractive to the free agent. The Devils are doing what it takes to land the most prized UFA...and they're not throwing exorbitant amounts of money at him to lure him. They are creating a team to lure him...a team that Kovy could believe has a strong chance at winning not just next year, but for many years to come.

But see below, where we discuss the age of New Jersey's current roster.

Kovalchuk is a top priority for the New Jersey Devils. Lamoriello is ready to trade players and do whatever needs to be done to ink Kovalchuk, if New Jersey is the team that Kovalchuk wants. Kovy may take his time in signing, just to see what the Devils come up with.

Why? If he's not about the money, why wait for more money?

In the meantime, it looks like he's quoting the unbelievable to teams he apparently has no interest in signing with. Any player asking for $10 million for 10+ years, to a team he knows doesn't have that kind of money, doesn't really want to play for that team.

Agreed, 100%. But, if he's going to take whatever New Jersey offers anyway, why dick people around? And while we're at it, if Lamoriello is going to offer something less than the $10MM IK apparently wants from Los Angeles, what's stopping him from doing it now? Why wait? Lamoriello can offer $9.5MM today. Kenneth seems to be saying it won't take nearly that much. Then what's the problem? Lamoriello doesn't have to move people first.

On the other hand, if LA can come up with that kind of contract, he may take it into consideration.

Why? He doesn't want to play there, but he's willing to spend the rest of his career there, for a couple million dollars? What is he, an idiot? I don't want to live on Three Mile Island, and I'm not changing my mind if I get a really good deal on a house.

It's a guarantee he's not asking for that kind of payday from the Devils. For those who say that Kovalchuk is about the money, he still has yet to prove those people right.

He's only "about winning" if he signs with a team that has a reasonable expectation of winning. He's "about the money" if he takes the money instead.

After all, the KHL threw crazy money at him, and he didn't care. He has said time and time again that he will take less money just to remain with a winning team.

That's what he said, yes. But it's also true that the KHL sucks as a league and could fall apart any second. So "crazy money" might actually be money for a couple of years and then bankruptcy.

That winning team he was talking about taking less money from just to remain [sic]...he was talking about the New Jersey Devils.

Okay, so presumably, Lamoriello made an offer. What was it? $7MM? $8MM? Why didn't he take it? If it's not about the money, and Lamoriello made an offer that worked for the Devils, then he would have taken the money and there would be a deal. So either (1) New Jersey made no offer at all, or (2) New Jersey made an offer that's not enough money for IK. If (1) then I don't see how New Jersey is interested. If (2) then IK is waiting for more of that very thing (the money) which he is apparently not all about (the money).

There really is no other option besides those two.

I think it's #1. Here's my theory. Lamoriello has told IK that he can't make an offer right now, but wait a few days until I am able to make some deals to clear space. Then we can make a deal. So IK waits. But Lamoriello knows his protegee Lombardi well, and knows there's no way he's going to make a deal for $10MM and knows there's a strong likelihood that Lombardi will simply move on (i.e. make other deals and use up his cap space). And when he does, lookie what happens...

There will be no suitors left but New Jersey. And Lamoriello will be able to get IK for less than he would have had he made a deal today or yesterday.

Now, if I'm right, and there has been no offer from NJ, at least Kenneth can keep her "he's not all about money" and "he wants to play in NJ" assumptions. If it's #2, she can't.

There are a lot of dynamics that go into what it takes to ink Kovalchuk. He wants to be a part of a winning team more than seeing an extra zero on his paycheck. If LA really wants to convince him, they'll need to pay up for the extra inconveniences that he and his family will have just to be in Los Angeles.

This is just about the dumbest thing I have ever heard. He wants to be part of a winning team, but not LA unless they're REALLY willing to pay him TONS of money, but he's NOT all about the money, he just needs to be paid HAZARD PAY for living in the shithole that is Los Angeles, rather than spending the rest of his life in New Jersey.

The Kings will have to come up with something better than what the Devils are already offering.

But. You. Said.

According to Kenneth it doesn't matter what the Kings offer, because IK wants to be in New Jersey. What does it matter if the Kings offer $8MM and the Devils offer $7MM? There's no doubt that if New Jersey will not have to pay a premium to sign IK, then the Kings would easily be able to beat their offer (does she think Lamoriello is going to offer $7MM and the Kings will counter with $6MM?). It just won't matter. According to Kenneth, because her whole theory is the Devils don't have to pay what the Kings would have to pay. Yet, somehow, "the Kings will have to come up with something better."

New Jersey's chances are pretty high at inking Kovalchuk after the end of Day One in free agency. As for the Kings, it looks like the cards are being stacked against them.

Since I am not even sold on the idea of Kovalchuk as a King, I can't get too upset about the cards being stacked against them. But this still sounds like wishful thinking to me.

If Kovalchuk is not all about the money, then he would have taken Lamoriello's offer, if there was one. But it doesn't matter. Dean Lombardi will not pay more than $8MM (cap hit) for Kovalchuk. And it sounds like Kenneth thinks New Jersey won't have to. If Ilya Kovalchuk is willling to take less money to play in New Jersey, when he could play for the Kings, more power to him.

Elias is 34.

Rolston is 37.

Arnott is 35.

Zubrus is 32.

Langenbrunner is 34.

White is 32.

Salvador is 34.

Brodeur is 38.

New Jersey is 3/10ths of a year away from being the oldest team in the league (Detroit is the oldest at 32.2; New Jersey is 31.9). There is just no way this team is going to get better with age. Within a couple of years, the Devils will be, necessarily, an entirely different team. And this is where Kovalchuk wants to go to be a contender for the next ten years?

I would be surprised if the Devils are a better team than the Kings, by any yardstick you care to use, between now and the end of IK's soon-to-be new contract.