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Posts tagged: Ilya Kovalchuk

Rangers Round Up

Rangerland is starting get busy. With a combination of the Traverse City tournament, Staal negotiations (or lack of them?), Camp almost upon us and the Tortorella interview on the MSG network there’s a lot to talk about. Now I’m back from an amazing weekend in Paris I thought I’d look at some of the most interesting news affecting the Rangers.

A few things have been happening in the league affecting the Rangers. I for one have no problem with inviting veterans to camp on try outs. After all they do not have jobs just a chance to earn them. So while I have no issue of Fedotenko being at camp why didn’t the Rangers jump ahead of the Flyers and get Billy Guerin on a try out? He has more to offer than Fedotenko and would be worth more of a shot than the Ex Pen. It’s also means another solid scorer potentially facing the Rangers six times a season.

The Kovalchuk saga is officially the story of the 2010 NHL summer. News broke of the massive punishment the league have levied at the Devils including 3m in fines, stripping the club a first round pick and a third. All in all Kovalchuk has become very expensive for the Devils. Reports suggest the Devils could appeal but apparently would not receive much support from the board of governors. This is a massive hit to the Devils future and they best hope Kovalchuk becomes the reincarnation of Gretzky over the next few years especially given the fact they still need to shed salary to make cap.

Back on the Rangers; the Blueshirts play their final group game at Traverse City today at 3.30 eastern. The Rangers need to win and have results go their way if they wish to play in the final. Given the talent at their disposal they’ll expect to beat the Minnesota Wild. Check back here at Blueseatblogs for a round up of the game.

The Hartford Wolfpack yesterday announced the signing of college free agent forward Brandon Wong. Wong, a 5-10 23 year old lead Quinnipiac University in points and goals (19 goals, 41 points) last season and had a 3 game try out with the AHL Grand Rapid Griffins in which he tallied an assist. The contract was an AHL one so Wong may be either Wolfpack or ECHL bound.

Thought I would weigh in with my opinion on Chris Drury following Nick’s article at Blueshirt Banter. I have said a few times over the past few months that Drury could be a critical part of the Rangers this season. Any kind of offensive resurgence from Drury could be massive and it still remains that way. Neither Todd White or any other addition could mean as much to the Rangers as the captain earning his salary. 20 goals from Drury this year would take the team a long way, certainly to the playoffs. News that he will get a chance to show his offense could mean a top 6 role and its in the Rangers best interest that he earns it.

Finally, a little Garnet Exelby discussion. Would the Rangers be more inclined to sign him if he was willing to start the year in Hartford? Then, would he block a legitimate prospect down there? (depends what you think of the Lee Baldwin’s of this world) Would he become a serious option if the Rangers needed to add physicality mid season? Personally, I don’t want Exelby starting the year ahead of a good prospect in NY if a prospect earns his stay but I wouldn’t mind seeing the Rangers retain Exelby (providing he has a solid camp) and having another option going forward.

Kovalchuk Stays in Jersey, Gagne Dealt to TB?

In relatively unsurprising news, Ilya Kovalchuk has decided to remain a New Jersey Devil. Kovalchuk, probably the most prominent free agent in the history of the NHL, announced that he will be returning to Jersey after a prolonged process that included a near-signing with the Devils, and several near signings with the Los Angeles Kings. In the end, a deal rumored to be 17 years and over $100 million was “enough” to keep Kovalchuk in America’s Armpit. Many will call the process dramatic and LeBron-esque, but this was far from it. Kovalchuk never commanded the spotlight like the others. The sick thing is that Kovalchuk will still be a Devil when I turn 40. I’m 26 now. That is incredibly disturbing. Update: The deal is $102 million over 17 years, broken down to $10 million for the first 8 years, and $7.5 million for the next 2 years. The remaining $7 million is distributed over 7 years.

Update 1:45pm: Lyle Richardson (Spector’s Hockey) is reporting, via Hockeybuzz (Eklund), that Simon Gagne has been dealt to the Tampa Bay Lightning. More later.

Update 2:20pm: Gagne has indeed been traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Names rumored to be coming back include goalie Mike Smith, and prospects Dana Tyrell and Ty Wishart. Not saying this is a 3-for-1 swap, just saying those are names being tossed around.

Update 2:35pm: Gagne to TB for Matt Walker and a 4th round pick. Walker is a 30 year old defenseman with just 4 NHL goals in his entire career, but does have 444 PIMs to go with it. This was a clear salary dump for the Flyers, as Walker is a $1.7 million cap hit (albeit for three more years), compared to Gagne’s $5.25 million for this season. This was an absolute steal by new Tampa GM Steve Yzerman, who has had a terrific offseason thus far.

Scouting the Market: Ilya Kovalchuk

Up next in Scouting The Market: everyone’s favorite Russian, Ilya Kovalchuk. Read the other Scouting The Markets here. Since the draft ended, and tomorrow all hell breaks loose for UFA’s, let’s give you a big dose of available UFA’s. Jeremy has been keeping you up to date this month, but for a day, I want to chime in too.

Kovalchuk is easily the most skilled winger available in this extremely thin UFA class. The LW averages over 40 goals and 80 points per year, and is easily considered to be an elite talent in the NHL. The knock on Kovalchuk though, is pretty much every other aspect of the game. He appears to be lazy in his own zone, and doesn’t really know what to do without the puck. In fact, the guys at Behind The Net have done some fantastic analysis of Kovalchuk’s advanced metrics. You can read about it here. There is one sentence you should focus on:

To recap that table in a sentence: Ilya Kovalchuk has been much more likely to start out in the offensive zone than his teammates, and even though he lines up against his opponents’ weaker lines, his teams have been significantly outshot while he’s on the ice. In other words, he’s a seriously negative player at even-strength.

Essentially, Kovalchuk’s stats are inflated based on his powerplay time, and his ridiculous shot percentage. Kovalchuk takes plenty of shots, and his shot is so lethal, that he is able to put the puck in the net more often. So, when you package all that together, you get a great scorer who at best is a mediocre player at even-strength.

Kovalchuk’s ridiculous salary demands have left many GMs with a sour taste in their mouths, especially after he rejected a $100 million contract from Atlanta over 12 years. Maybe he just wanted out of Atlanta, but that is a lot of money to turn down. The fact that he received a mammoth contract from the KHL probably plays a part, but since Kovalchuk’s salary is limited by the salary cap, it doesn’t play that much of a factor in the negotiation process. He simply can’t receive that kind of money in the NHL.

Kovalchuk would add another high profile, high scoring winger to the Rangers roster, but is the cost worth it? If the Rangers do in fact waive Wade Redden, should they reinvest all of that, and then some, in Kovalchuk, when they have players like Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky with expiring contracts the following year? It’s a big risk, but he really would help solve the Rangers scoring woes, even-strength play notwithstanding.

Sather: “Staal Gap a Chasm”, At Risk of Being Offer Sheeted

As per Steve Zipay, the Rangers and RFA defenseman Marc Staal are nowhere near close to a deal. In fact, it isn’t so much a wide gap as it is “a chasm”. This is not good for the Rangers. Staal’s contract will dictate what the Rangers do in this offseason. In addition to handcuffing the Rangers, Staal may also be at risk of being offer sheeted by another team. Sather did not come out and say that Staal could be offer sheeted, but it is now being speculated that he could be. If he signs an offer sheet, the Rangers would receive some compensation in terms of draft picks depending on the size of the contract offered. (For details on the size of compensation, please refer to the Understanding the Cap page.) Of course, that is pure speculation on my part, but stating the Rangers and Staal are far apart just invites offer sheets from other teams.

Also, Zipay mentioned that Sather refused to talk about Ilya Kovalchuk, fearing any sort of tampering accusation. Should the Rangers make a push for Kovalchuk, there will need to be some serious salary cap maneuvering.

Kovalchuk Available, Rangers a “Finalist”

TSN (via RDS) is reporting that Atlanta GM Don Waddell has informed star winger Ilya Kovalchuk to expect a trade. There are a possible five suitors, with the Rangers being named as one:

There is no indication that any deal with a specific team is imminent, but the Chicago Blackhawks, Boston Bruins and New York Rangers are included on a list of five or more teams who continue to express interest.

There is nothing wrong with expressing interest in Kovalchuk –all GMs around the league are kicking tires here and there– but you have to wonder, and fear, what Glen Sather is offering as a package for Kovalchuk. The package to get Kovalchuk is going to be similar to the package Waddell received for Marian Hossa a couple years ago: two young roster players (Colby Armstrong, Erik Christensen), a top prospect (Angelo Esposito), and a first round pick. This would alter my original guess at what it would take to get the star winger. Not by much, but it does nonetheless.

To put this into Rangers terms they would be giving up somewhere along the lines of Brandon Dubinsky, Dan Girardi, Bobby Sanguinetti, and a 2010 1st round pick for Kovalchuk and someone like Armstrong / Rich Peverley (I didn’t run the numbers, this is just a fair value comparison to the Pitt/Atl trade). I believe that is what the market for Kovalchuk will be, and I believe that Glen Sather should balk at this deal. That is way too much to give up, especially with the Rangers chances at playoff success past the first round dwindling faster than Lindsay Lohan’s career.

Maybe that’s a bit much for Kovalchuk, maybe someone pays more. All I know, is that if the Rangers sacrifice any top prospects or young roster players, someone is going to attempt to assassinate Glen Sather. Not me. But someone will.

Update 5:00pm: Kari Lehtonen will be traded as well.

Just Say ‘NO’ To Kovalchuk

Since the fire-sale of 2004, GM Glen Sather has done a fantastic job of rebuilding the farm system. The Rangers have NHL talent on the roster in Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan, Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Michael Del Zotto, and Artem Anisimov. They have high-end prospects in Evgeny Grachev, Derek Stepan, Bobby Sanguinetti, Ryan McDonagh, and Chris Kreider. They have a myriad of other prospects that may or may not pan out. The Rangers are going to be set with good, young, cost-controlled talent for many years to come.

What has clouded Ranger fans in the past years is that they have exceeded expectations and qualified for the playoffs each year during the rebuild. The team, as currently built, is unfortunately not ready to be a Stanley Cup contender. There is minimal secondary scoring, there is no physical preference on the blue line, and there are gaping holes in the depth of the team. Ilya Kovalchuk does not fill all these holes. A Stanley Cup team is a team that fills all it’s holes at the deadline, not just one.

When looking at a deal for Kovalchuk, you have to compare the package to be comparable to the package sent by Philly for Chris Pronger. The package was a young roster forward (Joffrey Lupul), a young roster / borderline roster defenseman (Luca Sbisa), two first round picks and a conditional third round pick. Since Kovalchuk would be a rental, the package required would be smaller, but not by much.

Assume it would cost the following players to be sent to Atlanta to land Kovalchuk:

  • Brandon Dubinsky
  • Bobby Sanguinetti
  • 2010 1st round pick
  • 2011 3rd round pick
  • Conditional 2011 1st round pick if Kovalchuk re-signs with the Rangers

This, on the surface, seems like a great deal, and I’ll admit, I would be tempted if this were the package. I would have to think that one more prospect would be thrown in, probably one of the Ethan Werek variety, but I was basing this strictly off the Pronger deal. Before you all thrown yourselves to this deal, you have to analyze this in more detail for a long term scenario. In order to fit Kovalchuk under the cap for the remainder of the season, the Rangers would have to waive Wade Redden, and replace him with Ilkka Heikkinen. Again, this is going to be received favorably by Ranger fans.

Looking ahead to the offseason, the money saved by waiving Redden is offset by the money it will cost to re-sign Kovalchuk, who will command roughly $8 million a season for a minimum of five years. Then you have to consider the money necessary to re-sign Dan Girardi and Marc Staal, and build the roster based off the remaining salary cap limitations. This means letting Vinny Prospal and Chris Higgins walk, re-signing Enver Lisin, and assuming that Evgeny Grachev will make the roster. The numbers work, assuming the salary cap remains the same. But, do we really want to deal with another long term, bloated contract? I can assure you that if this deal goes through, then there will be no buyout of Michal Rozsival. The Rangers will need his veteran presence on the blue line that will again have a rookie, and an average age of roughly 24.

Given the proper scenario, the numbers work. The issue lies in the big gamble that Kovalchuk will re-sign with the Rangers. If he doesn’t re-sign, then the Rangers gave up a ton to just make the playoffs. Then, the weak defense and lack of a physical presence is exploited, and the Rangers bow out in the second round. It’s not pessimistic, it’s realistic. Remember, I’m the optimist ’round these bloggin’ parts.

If he re-signs, then he provides the Rangers with one of the most lethal 1-2 punches in the NHL, but the defense suffers, and the Rangers are stuck with another bloated contract. Don’t forget that after the 2010 season, Artem Anisimov, Ryan Callahan, Matt Gilroy, and Chad Johnson are RFAs.

Again, the numbers work. Personally, I would disagree with this trade.

Rangers Interested in Kovalchuk

Stick-tap to Bettman’s Nightmare for the links here. First off, of course the Rangers are interested in Ilya Kovalchuk, who isn’t? In a wild trade scenario, NHL Snipers has a “creditable source” that has the Thrashers and the Rangers discussing a mega deal that would land Kovalchuk in NY. Going the other way would be a killing: Brandon Dubinsky, Michal Rozsival, Ryan McDonagh/Bobby Sanguinetti (one), Christopher Higgins, 2010 and 2011 first round picks, and 2011 second round picks.

To be blunt, I don’t buy this rumor at all. The Rangers would be completely overhauling their team, and giving up Brandon Dubinsky, for three months of Kovalchuk. They would have to have a deal in place with Kovalchuk before this happens, or else that’s a huge waste. Another problem is that they would need to find a defenseman to replace Rozsival (Ilkka Heikkinen), and possibly Wade Redden (the link states that Redden would be sent down to Hartford). Finding that second defenseman is going to be tough.

I don’t think the Rangers are going to make a big splash at the deadline. If recent years have taught us anything, it’s that championship clubs are those that have a core already, and use the deadline to fill minor holes. Personally, I don’t think Kovalchuk gets traded at the deadline, especially with the Thrashers in playoff contention. I think he gets dealt at the draft.

Again, thanks to Bettman’s Nightmare for the tip.

A Look Ahead: Ilya Kovalchuk

Ilya KovalchukThe biggest name heading into the 2010 free agency period is Atlanta Thrashers RW Ilya Kovalchuk. He will definitely get top dollar if he hits the open market, but how much he will get is already starting to generate buzz. ESPN cites sources (RDS.ca) that he is on the verge of signing a deal forth $11.3 million average over 9 years, which nets him over $100 million. Let’s let that sink in for a while before I pick this apart (aside from the fact that the article states that Boston, with all those draft picks, can be a possible target. Um, no. Zero cap space).

First and foremost, $11.3 million is exactly 20% of the current NHL salary cap ceiling. The current CBA states that no player shall make more than 20% of the salary cap ceiling. Considering that the salary cap will most likely decrease next year (cap numbers are tied to revenue, no one spends money in a recession), $11.3 million will almost definitely be against the current CBA.

Second, Kovalchuk is just awful in his own end. He is a combined -85 in his seven years in Atlanta, with his best year being 2006-2007, when he finished as a -2. He has never finished a year in on the positive end of this stat, and is a consistent liability in his own zone.

Third, Kovalchuk has never once broken 100 points in a season. Ever. He has five straight seasons of 40+ goals, and two 50+ goal seasons, but never has he once broken 100 points. Alex Ovechkin is, well Alex Ovechkin, and he makes $9 million a year, going up to $10 million a year in 2014. Is Kovalchuk worth $2 million more than Ovechkin. I think not.

As important to the survival of hockey in Atlanta as Kovalchuk is, he probably will net the most in return at the trade deadline. Atlanta is a team with a lot of holes, and rebuilding with everything GM Don Waddell can get for Kovalchuk is a very good start. If they can net a good young prospect, someone who is hyped up and they can market, then there is no loss in terms of marketing, as long as it’s presented properly. I am one of the many who believe that in order for Atlanta to become a good franchise, they need to trade Kovalchuk. I thought so last year, and not trading him this year would be asinine.

Atlanta already has some nice chips in place with Evander Kane, Zach Bogosian, Tobias Enstrom, and Bryan Little. That said, they need more than Kovalchuk in order to compete. Kane has the potential to match Kovalchuk’s production in the future, and if you pair him with Little, that’s a good first line. Bogosian and Enstrom are capable of anchoring a blue line.

Trading Kovalchuk though, is a whole other situation. A trading partner will have to be a contender, with cap room (or expendable pieces to create the necessary cap room) to fit Kovalchuk’s pro-rated $6.4 million cap hit (if you assume there are 20 games in the season after the trade deadline, that amounts to roughly $1.56 million), with a good enough farm system to deal non-roster players, and with enough off-season cap space to make a legitimate run to sign him long-term. It’s a tough task, but it’s doable.

If I had to make a guess, if the Blues are competing for a Division crown (with Detroit and Chicago’s suspect goaltending, it’s possible), or are fairly locked into a playoff spot, come the trade deadline, I would guess that St. Louis would make a run at him. They will definitely have the cap space (currently $5 million under the cap, they can practically fit him without dumping salary). They definitely have the prospects, #1 on HockeysFuture Organization Rankings. They can definitely compete. And with Paul Kariya’s $6 million coming off the books, they can definitely make a run to sign him long term.

I think a deal centered around Lars Eller/Aaron Palushaj, Jake Allen, Carlo Colaiacovo (cap space), Patrick Berglund/BJ Crombeen/David Perron, and a first round pick in exchange for Kovalchuk and Colby Armstrong could get it done. It’s a nice balance of two prospects, a roster player, a high pick, and cap space in exchange for Kovalchuk and a role player.

You heard it here first, if the Blues are competing, Kovalchuk goes to St. Louis.

Image Credit: Dave Sandford/Getty Images

Looking for that power forward

Scott Burnside of ESPN ran a piece yesterday discussing what he terms “this year’s most tradable players,” a fan friendly list of a players likely to be moved in the weeks leading up to the deadline. There’s sexy names up and down the list, but for the most part the players either don’t fit any of the Blueshirts’ needs (Manny Fernandez, Vesa Toskala, The Bulinwall) or are just flat out unattainable because of talent/cap reasons (Jay Bouwmeester, Ilya Kovalchuk, Vinny Lecavalier, Marian Gaborik, Jason Spezza), except for one guy: Keith Tkachuk.

It seems like there’s a Tkachuk-to-the-Rangers rumor every year, and just like every other year the soon to be 37 year old would fill two needs: a top six forward and a guy that’ll park himself in front of the net with a man advantage. Tkachuk’s not Nik Antropov huge, but he does offer some size (listed at 6’2″, 231 lbs) and there’s a darn good chance he’ll be re-energized by joining a playoff team after making the postseason just once in the past four seasons (’06-’07 with Atlanta). He’s still got a nose for the net, potting fifteen goals this year (including the first goal in Sunday’s All Star Game) despite minimal help from his Blues teammates, and his ten power play goals (sixth most in the league) would far and away lead the club.

Now, how does the money work? Tkachuk’s making $4.5M this year and has a $4M cap number according to NHL Numbers, and is due to hit the free agent market following the season. That $4M cap hit is a bit of an eyesore but it’s certainly doable. Perhaps the deal could be expanded to included a physical (and cap friendly) defensman like Jeff Woywitka or Roman Polak, both of whom will be restricted free agents after the season. Adding that extra player would make giving up multiple young players/picks for Tkachuk much easier to swallow.

Bill Guerin’s name has been connected to the Rangers in the past few weeks, but Tkachuk is almost the exact same player production wise (15 G, 16 A vs 14 G, 18 A) except sixteen months younger and with a more favorable contract. Hopefully we hear some more about this in the coming weeks.

The Trade Deadline

It’s that time of the season where everyone not tied to a ridiculous salary (Drury, Gomez, Redden, Rozsival, Lundqvist) is mentioned in some sort of trade rumor. This is also the time of the season where we know who the definite sellers are (Islanders, Senators, Panthers, Thrashers, Blues) and who, barring a huge winning streak, the sellers will be (Lightning, Leafs, Predators, Kings).

If you’re dreaming of Kovalchuk or Bouwmeester in Ranger blue, then keep dreaming. The price tag on those two will be enormous. For Kovalchuk, think Staal, Anisimov, Del Zotto and a 1st rounder as a start. For Bouwmeester, think Staal, Anisimov and a 1st rounder to start. Kovalchuk is more expensive right now because he’s under contract for next year too. You also have to think about whatever throw-ins are needed to get the cap situation to work (Kalinin, Mara, Prucha, any one of Dawes / Callahan / Korpikoski). Big trades rarely happen in the NHL anymore, and a trade for either of these guys leaves the future in doubt. Once you get past those prospects, it’s a bunch of 3rd liners (minus Grachev) or 3rd pairing defensemen.

The Rangers have two glaring needs: a top six wing, and a bruiser defenseman (or a PP QB). The most obvious person to fill the first void would be Bill Guerin, but I highly doubt the Islanders would trade in-division, and I doubt Sather wants to give a draft pick + young player to a division rival.

One name that jumps out at me is Filip Kuba. He would be a rental player, as he’s a UFA after the season. The problem is that he would cost Dawes and a 4th rounder, plus whatever has to be thrown in to make the cap situation work. I don’t trust Sather with free agents, but he has been able to pull off some sparkling trades (Tyutin for Zherdev? Really?).

Another name that jumps out at me is Keith Tkachuk. He’s 2nd in scoring on a Blues team sans Kariya, and he’s a big physical body that they will need. He will crash the net and get the rebound goals that most of this current roster is scared, or too small, to do. His cost will be similar to Guerin’s cost (think Dawes + 3rd rounder, and then various salary cap players thrown in). JD will not be giving us a discount, so don’t even bother thinking it.

As for bruiser defensemen, how about Denis Gauthier? He’s 6’2 220, and is currently 13th in the league in hits with 120. he doesn’t take that many penalties (39 PIMS, with 1 fighting major, so 17 minor penalties all year). His one drawback is that he’s a -9 (this would actually tie him with Rozsival and Kalinin for worst +/- amongst defensemen), but he’s -9 on a team that called Jason Labarbera its starter for half the season. So he may actually be an upgrade there.

I think a move like Gauthier, who won’t cost more than a draft pick and whoever is thrown in to make the salary cap work (Gauthier made $2.1 million this year), is more likely than a move for Kuba/Tkachuk.

I love this time of year. I’ll post valid rumors (ie: comes from a legitimate source, not just someone behind a screen making trades in NHL 09) as I hear them.

Update 10:30am: I forgot to mention the Chris Pronger rumors. He would fill two holes, PP QB and bruiser defensemen (even if he does get schooled every now and then). He would cost the same as Bouwmeester, and is under contract for one more year ($6.25 million cap hit). A trade for Pronger isn’t happening unless Redden or Rozsival get thrown in. So basically, it’s extremely unlikely.