Islanders in the hunt for Kovalchuk, amp up the crazy with colossal offer


kovalchukjuly1.jpgLeave it to Islanders owner Charles Wang to know how to stir things up. While the Islanders had a busy day signing free agents today, there wasn’t a lot to really write home about as far as big names go. Perhaps that’s because the Islanders have been laying in the weeds ready to make a strike for this year’s biggest free agent prize, Ilya Kovalchuk.

Things started with a pair of virtually simultaneous tweets from both TSN’s Darren Dreger and the LA Times’ Helene Elliott saying that the Islanders are now in the hunt for the high-scoring Russian winger. Dreger then follows that information up with this blockbuster piece of info.

One source suggests the Isles offer to be $10 mil x 10 yrs. Yikes!

Now to put things in perspective here, the main thing the Isles can do regarding Kovalchuk is offer up oodles of cap space to fit his supposed desired amount of money, that being around $10 million a year. The Islanders, as it happens, are about $9 million under the salary floor.

For each good thing that this deal could do for the Isles (adding a legit stud scorer, someone to build a campaign for Wang’s Lighthouse Project around, an instant draw for fans) there’s also a negative way to look at things for the Islanders as well.

If you added up the money that Kovalchuk, oft-injured goalie Rick DiPietro and long since bought out of town malcontent Alexei Yashin would have devoted to the Isles salary cap next year, you’d have $19.255 million spoken for. Considering that DiPietro is injured more than he plays and Yashin has been getting paid by the Islanders to be a KHL star for the last few years, that’s a staggering amount of money not being put to great use.

As always, there’s someone that can help us find some justification and Islanders Point Blank’s Chris Botta gets us through the madness with this slice of logic.

If you’re an Islanders follower, you have to be intrigued. If Charles Wang was okay with giving $30 million to an unflashy defenseman like Dan Hamhuis, what’s $80 million for an every-season 40-goal scorer?

It’s sound logic when you take into consideration the Isles had all of two players score more than 20 goals last season (Matt Moulson – 30, John Tavares 24) and adding Kovalchuk to the mix with those two guys as well as Kyle Okposo, all of a sudden things are looking up for the Isles.

Factor in the amount of great youth they’ve acquired through the draft the last few years that will be on their way up to the NHL in the next couple seasons, all of a sudden getting Ilya Kovalchuk at $10 million a year looks like a drastic investment in the future of the Isles. After all, Kovalchuk is just 28 years old so when players like Travis Hamonic, Nino Niederreiter, Brock Nelson, Kirill Kabanov, and Calvin De Haan are potentially ready to jump into the NHL, Kovalchuk is the veteran leader of an army of talented young players.

For now, chalk this up for what it is: An outstanding offer from a team that doesn’t exactly fit one of Kovalchuk’s wants for signing a long-term deal. They’re not a winning team. They could be, and Kovalchuk could certainly be the spark plug in leading the charge for the Islanders future, but right now the Isles can only truly satisfy the other thing Kovalchuk wants and that is to get paid big time.

The Panthers are healthy scratching Bolland, and he is their highest-paid forward, but they insist they’re not sending a message

Dave Bolland, Derek Nansen
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It feels like there’s a story brewing in Florida, where Dave Bolland — the team’s most-expensive forward, at $5.5 million a season — has been a healthy scratch for three consecutive games.

But according to head coach Gerard Gallant, there’s nothing to see here. Move along.

“There’s nothing to talk about,” Gallant said, per the Miami Herald. “He sat out, our team is playing well. There’s nothing more than that. We have to sit two guys and I like the way we’re playing. The next game is a different game. We may change something up, who knows.”

Bolland had just one goal and five points in 18 games prior to getting parked in the press box. Well, technically he got dropped to the fourth line before hitting the press box, but you get the idea. He’s not exactly in Gallant’s good graces.

Not helping Bolland’s case is the fact that, as Gallant pointed out, the club is playing pretty well without him. The Panthers have rebounded from a rough start to November by winning back-to-back games against the Islanders and Red Wings, which set them up nicely for the remainder of this current five-game road swing.

Florida has games still to play in St. Louis, Nashville, Columbus and New Jersey. It’ll be interesting to see when — or, if — he draws back into the lineup.

In closing, a reminder that Bolland’s in the second of a five-year, $27.5 million deal.

Canucks rookie Virtanen exits with upper-body injury, won’t return


After sitting out Friday’s game in Dallas, Vancouver’s Jake Virtanen had to be excited at drawing back in for tonight’s game against the Ducks.

Unfortunately, the excitement didn’t last long.

Virtanen suffered an upper-body injury after playing just 1:45 in the opening frame, and was ruled out of the contest during the intermission. It’s unclear exactly what happened, but it looks like Virtanen was injured on a hit by Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf.

Virtanen didn’t take another shift following the incident, and Getzlaf was given a minor penalty on the play.

While we don’t know what the injury is or it’s severity, losing Virtanen for any length of time would have ramifications for the Canucks and this year’s Canadian entry at the World Juniors. There has been talk of Virtanen possibly being released by the Canucks to participate in the tournament; last year, he was part of the team that captured gold in Montreal and Toronto.

Virtanen has played in 18 games for the Canucks this year, scoring one goal and four points while averaging 10:17 TOI per night.

McLellan sounds off on Oilers after shutout loss in Toronto

Todd McLellan

Edmonton lost for the fourth time in five games on Monday, a 3-0 defeat in Toronto that marked the second time in a week the Oilers have been shut out.

Needless to say, the head coach wasn’t happy.

In a fairly blunt and harsh assessment aimed at a variety of players, Todd McLellan had some choice words for what he called a “disappointing” effort.

Some of the more choice quotes:

“I didn’t think we were a very hard team. I didn’t think we stood over a lot of pucks. I didn’t think we won a lot of battles along the boards. I didn’t think we were competitive enough in a lot of areas.”

“When I look at the trip as a whole, we had some key, key people really under-perform on the trip. Significant minus numbers, not hitting the score sheet. It can’t always be the [Leon DraisaitlTaylor Hall line] that provides that.”

It’s fair to suggest that last one was directed at Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle.

Nugent-Hopkins has just two points and zero goals in his last five games, with a minus-8 rating. Eberle is pointless entirely, and also at minus-8 over the same stretch.

They’re hardly the only Oilers not pulling their weight at the moment, however. Edmonton has lost 15 times in its first 25 games, a figure that suggests there are more problems that just a couple of underachieving forwards.

Just ask McLellan, who all but admitted his team has issues matching up.

“We’re not where we need to be,” he said. “We’ve got work to do as a team, work to do as an organization to get bigger, stronger, harder, and physically win more battles than we lose.”

Roy: Avs ‘need, expect more’ from Varlamov


The tough times continue for Semyon Varlamov.

After another unsuccessful outing on Monday — allowing four goals on 27 shots in a loss to the Islanders — Varlamov was subjected to a familiar refrain: Patrick Roy saying the Avs need more from their No. 1 netminder.


You can hear all of the head coach’s comments in the video above but, for brevity’s sake, here’s the Varlamov stuff:

“It’s not easy for him. Obviously we need that extra save and we didn’t get it on the road. It’s hard to win if you’re giving four goals on the road.

“We just need more from him. He’s our No. 1 guy and we’re behind him, but we need, we expect more from him.”

There has to be serious concern about Varlamov right now, if there wasn’t already.

His save percentage through seven games in November (.891) is marginally better than it was through seven games in October (.889), and that’s not the only alarming stat. Varlamov’s yet to record a shutout this year, yet to record back-to-back victories and has given up at least three goals in six of his last seven starts.

Not good.

Compounding things for Colorado are the standings. The Avs are now 9-14-1 and mired in the Central Division basement, meaning that — if they have any hope of going on a tear and getting back into playoff content — they’ll need to do it soon.

Which means they might not have the time, or the patience, for Varlamov to find his game.