Kovalchuk Signs With Kings

PHILADELPHIA - APRIL 18: Ilya Kovalchuk #17 of the New Jersey Devils skates against the Philadelphia Flyers in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Wachovia Center on April 18, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Hmmmmm, that has something of a ring to it doesn’t it? The Kings have arguably not had a true sniper who could change a game entirely on his own since Gretzky left. Certainly Ziggy Palffy had his moments, and obviously who would even dare to disrespect the skills that Luc brought to the table. Still, the Kings are heavy on the gritty, grind it out players that are key in the new NHL. Players like Dustin Brown, Ryan Smyth, Jarret Stoll, Wayne Simmonds, and others are incredibly important, and some of the most fun to watch, but nothing replaces the electricity that a true superstar sniper brings to the table.

Ilya Kovalchuk is without question that kind of sniper. He’s got magical hands, a crazy shot and some series skating ability. Other than Ovechkin and possibly Malkin, Kovalchuk may be the best pure goal scorer in the NHL. He certainly is one of the most consistent, having posted 40+ goal seasons for the past 6 seasons, and a “pitiful” 38 in another season. Other than his rookie season he’s never failed to reach 38 goals. That’s (in his sophomore season) 4 more goals than Kopitar (Kings highest goal scorer) had this season. It’s a gaudy total, and something that would certainly fit in with the team. The Kings managed to qualify for the playoffs in style, and adding another potential 50 goals can only help take the pressure off some of the other scorers.

There’s no doubt that Kovalchuk would be a bit hit in Los Angeles. That razzle-dazzle would be a welcome sight, and seeing him flank Smyth and Kopitar would certainly ease the pain of watching Frolov depart for greener pastures. So what’s the downside? Well for one the cost. The Kings have about $47.8 million tied up for next year, and the salary cap this season was a hefty $56.8 million. That means, assuming the cap doesn’t raise significantly, the Kings will have about $9 million to fill out their roster. By my count that means they’ve got a #6 defenseman, a top 6 winger and possibly a 3rd line grinder. Rumors have Kovalchuk asking for upwards of $10 million. Obviously that’s above the potential cap for next year, which means they’d need to shed salary. Presumably a significant amount of salary, since they’ll also need to fill the other two holes, and handle signing the big dog (Drew Doughty) to a long-term, high-value contract shortly.

So can it be done? Possibly. Certainly other outlets are talking about the possibility. If Kovalchuk is willing to take a slight pay reduction to play for what will likely become the most exciting team in the NHL in the near future, he’ll be welcome in Los Angeles. A solid $8 million annually would probably be about the maximum that Los Angeles would be able to afford. Especially since he’s almost certainly looking for a longer term contract.

I’ve mentioned it before, I tend to prefer the game that Marleau brings to the table. I’d love to see him in a Kings jersey come July 1st, but there’s no doubt that Kovalchuk would be a spectacular consolation prize. Do you want to see him in LA? If so, for how much?

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Tags: Alex Ovechkin Alexander Frolov Anze Kopitar Drew Doughty Dustin Brown Evgeni Malkin Free Agency Ilya Kovalchuk Jarret Stoll Los Angeles Kings Patrick Marleau Ryan Smyth Wayne Gretzky Wayne Simmonds Ziggy Palffy

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