OK so we’re mostly all tired of talking about this subject. Of course despite saying we’re all tired of talking about it, here we are again, ready and able to talk about it all over. The Ilya Kovalchuk to the Los Angeles Kings rumors have been swirling again, and most recently were given a large dose of fuel for the fire when it was discovered that Kovalchuk was heading to Los Angeles. No, he hasn’t signed (yet) with the Kings, but he is going to take a little trip around Los Angeles and view the Kings organization from a slightly closer perspective.
So is it a good sign?
Well I suppose that depends on if you think signing Kovalchuk would be a good choice. And honestly I can’t imagine a legitimate argument that it is not a good choice. Of course as with any signing, it will have to be for the right price. If he’s locked up for 10 years at $10 million annually, things are going to be ugly. If signing Kovalchuk costs of Doughty, there is going to be hell to pay in Los Angeles. That said, I sincerely do not believe that Lombardi would make that kind of silly decision. He’s clearly playing hard ball, and despite “calling off” the negotiations on several occasions, the two sides remain in negotiations.
Here’s how I see the situation breaking down: Kovalchuk doesn’t want to play in New Jersey (who would?) and doesn’t want to go back to Russia. He wants to play in the NHL, and he wants to play for a team with a chance to win a Cup or two. Guess what? Most of those teams are capped out. Blackhawks, Penguins, Capitals, Sharks, etc. either have no place for him or just flat can’t afford him. The Kings on the other hand, can. Now Lombardi has been taking the better part of two weeks to convince him that if he doesn’t want to play in Atlanta West (read: incompetant management, poor level of hockey talent, no league-wide success), he’s going to have to give something on the salary negotiations.
If Kovalchuk really wants to come to a winner, and that team is the Los Angeles Kings, I think we may have a surprisingly good deal on our hands. I’m hoping for right around $6 million annually. I figure the contract will be front loaded, which is fine, but keeps the cap hit low over the course of its life. If he can get Kovalchuk to go even lower, all the better. But as long as we stay below $7 million (preferably quite a bit below), I’ll be pleased.
In general, I think Lombardi is playing this game very frustratingly for fans, but very well. In the end I still think we’ll end up with Kovalchuk in a Kings jersey. How much do you think he’s worth? What’s the max you’d pay for him?