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What if the NHL approves latest Kovalchek deal?
The hockey world awaited word this weekend from the National Hockey League about whether or not it would accept the latest contract proposal from the New Jersey Devils for superstar winger Ilya Kovalchuk.
Last Friday, the Devils — probably spurred by word from Kovalchuk’s Russian agent giving a 48-hour ultimatum for his client to be signed to an NHL contract or risk losing him to Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League for the season — made their latest proposal to the league.
Neither Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello nor league officials would comment on the details, but it’s rumored to be a 15-year, $100 million contract, which would break down as an average salary of $6.66 million per season, providing hockey fans with plenty of material for jokes about how “devilish” Kovalchuk’s contract would be.
But the league appears intent on taking its time to reach a decision. Deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Friday the league had five days to review the proposal, meaning a decision might not be reached until Wednesday.
It’s certainly unusual that this new proposal needs five whole days to review considering the league needed only a day to reject the Devils initial contract for Kovalchuk in early August or to reject the framework of a subsequent proposal a week ago. It gives the impression the league is using this opportunity to make Devils management, Kovalchuk and his agents squirm before reaching a decision.
If the new contract is for 15 years, $100 million, it’ll still probably be front-loaded, though not as heavily as the original 17-year, $102 million contract, which had been one of the factors in the league’s rejection of it and an arbiter subsequently upholding that decision.
The New York Post also speculated last week the Devils might’ve dropped the provision that would’ve changed Kovalchuk’s “no movement” clause to a “no trade” clause, which in the original deal would’ve allowed the club to demote him in the final years of the deal.
League approval of this proposal would also be considered by general managers as the limit for contract length as well as how much a deal can be front-loaded and when it can modify movement clauses during a contract’s tenure.
If this deal's approved, however, Lamoriello’s work won’t be done, as it’ll push the Devils over the league’s $59.4 million salary cap for the upcoming season by more than $3 million.
The Devils can be over the cap during the offseason by up to 10 percent of the cap ceiling, but must be under it prior to the start of their season October 8.
Salvador has two years at $2.9 million per season remaining on his contract while Zubrus has three more years at $3.4 million per. There might be a market for Salvador, but probably not so much for Zubrus, who averaged around 35 points per season the past three years.
Other Devils lacking “no trade” clauses include forwards Zach Parise, Travis Zajac, David Clarkson and defensemen Henrik Tallinder and Andy Greene, but they’re considered players Lamoriello would prefer to retain.
Devils mainstays Patrik Elias and Martin Brodeur have “no movement” and “no trade” clauses, respectively, but they won’t be asked to waive them. Neither will stay-at-home blueliner Colin White, who has a "no trade" clause.
Anton Volchenkov and Johan Hedberg were signed this summer as free agents so they won’t be asked to waive their clauses, and 37-year-old Brian Rolston could be asked to waive his clause, but given his declining production and expensive salary (more than $5 million per season), he’s unlikely to attract many takers.
Team captain Jamie Langenbrunner is an unrestricted free agent next summer and could be asked to waive his clause, but given his leadership and steady production, Lamoriello would probably prefer to retain him as well.