Ilya Kovalchuk isn't worthy of a big raise


kovaldevils.jpgIn a league where the salary cap should hover around the $58-$59 million mark for the 2010-11 season, you don’t get a lot of wiggle room when it comes to signing big money players. Just look at the Pittsburgh Penguins; only true cap savants would argue that Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin aren’t worth their dual $8.7 million annual cap hits, but there’s no doubt that they force the team into a top-heavy structure.

So, I’m sorry, but I disagree with the message of Dimitry Chesnokov’s piece about Ilya Kovalchuk being worth big money. Particularly when Kovalchuk is being compared to bigger impact/more complete players.

Kovalchuk is 27. He is three years “ahead” of Lecavalier. He may probably only be compared to Crosby and Ovechkin — Kovalchuk has been consistent throughout his career.

Moreover, when Lecavalier signed his mega deal he was 0.86 points per game. Staal was 0.87 points per game. Coming into this free agency, Kovalchuk is over a point per game. He has been a consistent performer.

For one thing, Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin (not to mention Evgeni Malkin) are at least a rung up the imaginary star player ladder above Kovalchuk. Crosby, for one, has a ludicrous big-game resume, a clear advantage in making his teammates better thanks to his superior playmaking skills and – gasp – an actual interest in playing defense. Ovechkin is everything Kovalchuk is, but better. He’s also a physical force, so he has a better chance of making an impact on a game even when he’s not scoring goals. Oh, and they’re both a few years younger, so while Kovalchuk’s game is probably plateauing, the two stars still might improve.

Even comparing him to Eric Staal and Vincent Lecavalier is faulty, for two reasons: a) Staal and Lecavalier have not only advanced past the first round of the playoffs but actually won a Cup and b) the two players signed with the teams that drafted them. Kovalchuk had his chance to sign a stupid contract in a similar situation in Atlanta, but he wanted to have his cake and eat it too.

After the jump, I’ll provide a good NHL parallel for Kovalchuk.

heatersharks.jpgSo, what is a fair comparison for Kovalchuk? I’d say his former Thrashers teammate, Dany Heatley, is the closest match. Both are one-dimensional players with amazing finishing ability and a naked indifference to defense. Each player seems like a bit of a headache; Heatley forced his way out of Ottawa and Atlanta while Kovalchuk ignored the Thrashers naming him their captain and surrounding him with Russian players.

The parallels extend to stats, too. Kovalchuk scored 338 goals and 642 points in 621 career games while Heatley put up 299 goals and 625 points in 589 regular season games. Heatley has the slight advantage in career points per game (1.06 to Kovalchuk’s 1.03), although I’d attribute the plus/minus disadvantage the two players have to quality of teammates.

Here’s the rub: Heatley’s yearly cap hit is $7.5 million, which is the mark Kovalchuk’s last deal made. I can’t imagine that Kovalchuk would be happy making the same salary as he did with his last contract, but honestly, I think that’s about what he’s worth. Frankly, I’m not even sure if I’d want my team to shell out that money for him, either. Kovalchuk is a powerplay specialist who plays protected minutes and has a career 1-8 playoff record.

Look, there’s no doubt that Kovalchuk is one of the league’s best goal scorers. The ability to put the puck in the net is not a common skill. I’m not saying he’s a worthless player, just that a team that would spend $100 million on the flighty Russian will be unhappy with their investment.

In the next post, I’ll look at some sensible landing spots for Kovalchuk.

NHL has no plans to change waiver rules

Manny Malhotra Ryan Stanton
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Even with all the young players that have been healthy scratches this season, don’t expect the NHL to change its waiver rules.

Deputy commissioner Bill Daly told PHT in an email that it’s not something that’s “ever been considered.”

“For better or worse that’s what waiver rules are there for,” Daly wrote. “They force Clubs to make tough decisions.”

Today, Montreal defenseman Jarred Tinordi became the latest waiver-eligible youngster to be sent to the AHL on a two-week conditioning loan.

Tinordi, 23, has yet to play a single game for the Habs this season. If he were still exempt from waivers, he’d have undoubtedly been sent to the AHL long before he had to watch so many NHL games from the press box.

In light of situations like Tinordi’s, some have suggested the NHL change the rules. Currently, the only risk-free way for waiver-eligible players to get playing time in the AHL is via conditioning stint, and, as mentioned, those are limited to 14 days in length.

So the Habs will, indeed, need to make a “tough decision” when Tinordi’s conditioning stint is up. Do they put him in the lineup? Do they keep him in the press box and wait for an injury or some other circumstance to create an opportunity for him to play? Do they risk losing him to waivers by attempting to send him to the AHL? Do they trade him?

Your call, Marc Bergevin.

Related: Stanislav Galiev is stuck in the NHL

Ortio clears waivers, assigned to Flames’ AHL team

Joni Ortio
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Joni Ortio has cleared waivers and been assigned to AHL Stockton, the Calgary Flames announced today.

The 24-year-old goalie was always likely to clear, what with his dreadful numbers this season (0-2-1, .868),

But we suppose there was always the chance he’d get picked up, so it’s a relief for the Flames all the same. With a little more time to hone his game in the AHL, Ortio could still turn out to be a quality NHL netminder.

In a related move, veteran goalie Jonas Hiller has been activated from injured reserve. Hiller and Karri Ramo are the only goalies on the Flames’ active roster now.

Price placed on injured reserve; Yakupov to miss 2-4 weeks with sprained ankle

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Two injury updates in one post.

First, the situation with Montreal goalie Carey Price, who was hurt last night versus the Rangers.

According to Canadiens coach Michel Therrien, Price has been placed on injured reserve with a lower-body injury. That means he’ll be out at least a week, though no exact timeline was provided.

“We don’t know how long Carey will be out, but for us it’s business as usual,” said Therrien.

Mike Condon will get the start tomorrow in New Jersey.

As for Oilers forward Nail Yakupov, he’ll be out 2-4 weeks after spraining his ankle last night in Carolina while getting tangled up with a linesman.

Getzlaf didn’t love the ‘dead’ atmosphere at Coyotes game

Martin Erat, Ryan Getzlaf

Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf wasn’t impressed with at least two things last night in Arizona:

1. His team’s performance in a 4-2 loss to the Coyotes.
2. The atmosphere inside Gila River Arena, where the announced attendance was just 11,578.

“It’s hard. When you come into a building … it’s dead,” Getzlaf told the O.C. Register. “Nothing against the fans. It’s hard to fill a big building like this and have the amount of people in it to build your energy. So you have to do it yourself. You have to be ready when you step on the ice. I thought we came out flat.”

Anaheim’s record fell to 8-11-4 with the defeat.

The Coyotes’ average attendance also fell, to 13,144 in eight games.