Archive for Ilya Kovalchuk


Rumor: Rangers to sign Ilya Kovalchuk

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Per Igor Eronko, the Rangers are set to sign Ilya Kovalchuk to a 2-3 year deal. This comes a little out of left field, as there was always chatter but nothing concrete regarding Kovalchuk and the Rangers. The soon-to-be 35 year old winger has played the last five years in the KHL after finding a way out of his disastrous contract in New Jersey.

Before going to the KHL, Kovalchuk was a legit sniper in the NHL, averaging a point a game with one of the more lethal wrist shots we’ve seen. He was a prime talent. At 35 he’s unlikely going to be that dominant, but there’s a chance he will still be useful. I hate the idea of a multi-year deal for a 35 year old though.

Also, what’s the point of this in a rebuild? If the Blueshirts were looking for a fast turnaround, then trading Ryan McDonagh was silly. The Rangers are trying to pull a Yankees, and that probably won’t go as well as it did in the Bronx. Unless the plan is to spin him at next year’s deadline, I’m not a fan.

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Breaking down the Ilya Kovalchuk rumors

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Ever since the news broke that Ilya Kovalchuk wants to come back to the NHL, preferring to play in New York or Florida, the Rangers have been linked to them. Elliotte Friedman added fuel to that fire during this week’s 30 Thoughts, mentioning that the Rangers also appear to have interest.

It would be silly for Jeff Gorton to simply ignore Kovalchuk’s return. After all, he’s been a point-per-game player in the KHL. At 34 years old and at that elite talent level, he’s still got gas left in the tank. However the major question isn’t whether he has gas left, it’s how much. Is he going to be another Jaromir Jagr, putting up 40 points until he turns 900 years old? Or will he fizzle out after half a season?

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Ilya Kovalchuk was second in KHL scoring this season with 78 points

– The best player on the ice for the Blueshirts last night was Mika Zibanejad. Everyone expected Big Game Brass to take vengeance on his former club, but it’s Zibanejad that has three points in the series while Brassard has zilch. Zibanejad really has all the tools. In a few years we’ll either look back at the Zibanejad/Brassard trade as the modern day McDonagh/Gomez swap, or we’ll view Zibanejad as Nik Zherdev 2.0. I still think he’s going to blossom into a star.

– Another major positive from Game 3 was the return of Kevin Hayes. Along with Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan, Hayes has been pretty much invisible throughout the postseason. He looked like a different player last night.

– Tapped in Russian reporter Slava Malamud created a bit of a frenzy this week with a series of tweets in which he indicated Ilya Kovalchuk’s desire to return to the NHL after a three-year stay in the KHL. Malamud also noted there’s not much interest in a reunion by either Kovalchuk or the Devils, but Kovalchuk’s preference would be to stay in the NYC area (read: Rangers or Islanders), or move to Florida.

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Rangers Round Up

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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.

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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.

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Scouting the Market: Ilya Kovalchuk

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Just Say ‘NO’ To Kovalchuk

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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.

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Rangers Interested in Kovalchuk

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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.

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