Catching up with Kovalchuk

russiakovalchuk.jpgIt’s only fair that the most interesting free agent in the world (thanks crafty Mexican beer ad) Ilya Kovalchuk gets his own update to get everyone filled in on the daily roller coaster that is the Kovalchuk rumor mill and speculation palace.

It started earlier today with a report from Russia saying that the KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg was “close” to a deal with the high-scoring left wing. As it turns out, as it usually has gone since free agent madness began seven days ago, there was nothing to that report and Kovalchuk wasn’t close to anything with the KHL team, mostly because they were busy signing former Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov.

Shortly after it was announced that Nabokov was heading to Russia, word came from Helene Thomas of the LA Times via Twitter that the Kings were “re-engaged” in talks with Ilya Kovalchuk. The Kings getting involved once again with Kovalchuk is interesting because Kings GM Dean Lombardi had very clearly proclaimed to Rich Hammond of the Kings Insider that the Kings were not a choice for Kovalchuk anymore.

Tonight, some of the talk surrounding the Kovalchuk negotiations is surrounding a darker storyline in this whole situation and one that’s not exactly under the control of either Kovalchuk or the general managers he’s negotiating with: The expiration of the league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. Helene Thomas mentions it briefly in her wrap on things for the day at the LA Times.

Lombardi must also factor in the possibility that the salary cap will decrease under a new collective bargaining agreement and that giving Kovalchuk a salary that would create a large cap hit will impede the Kings’ ability to keep their core players. The current labor deal between the NHL and the NHL Players’ Assn. expires after the 2011-12 season and owners could push to lower the cap, which will stand at $59.4 million next season.

I don’t think many folks have been keeping this in mind because, let’s face it, we’ve all got mental scars from having these two sides botch things up five years ago to the point where they got an entire season canceled. Out of sight and out of mind works for everyone… Except for one of the better executives in the league in Dean Lombardi. The New York Post’s Larry Brooks, a rather huge supporter of the NHL Players Association in his own right, gets even more doom and gloom on Twitter about a possible labor disruption in two years and even dishes his own rumor as to what the Kings are offering Kovalchuk.

Reliable Source: Kings have offered Kovalchuk 12-year deal for AAV of $5.3M. Not going to happen. Might open door for short-term options.

The problem there is that Kovalchuk has supposedly wanted to get a long-term deal done. Sigh. I know this is all head-spinning and potentially gloomy stuff, but we can all take a breath and just relax in knowing that at least Kovalchuk isn’t getting an hour dedicated to him on cable to talk about where he’ll end up signing. After all, it’s safe to say that those of us writing about this ad nauseum and fans of the Devils and Kings and elsewhere are probably the people most worked up about everything. Sit back, relax and enjoy the non-stop public negotiating because we’re not likely to see something like this again in the NHL.

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    PHT Morning Skate: Sharks name stray cat after captain Joe Pavelski

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    PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

    –The stray cat that ran onto the ice prior to Game 1 between the Sharks and Preds has been named after Joe Pavelski. (Associated Press)

    –Speaking of that black cat, here’s a mountain of pucks shaped like the cat. (The Score)

    –When Lukas Head was younger, he played with Steven Stamkos and P.K. Subban. Here’s his story. (Toronto Star)

    –Watch the highlights from yesterday’s game between the Stars and Blues. (Top)

    –A look behind the scenes of the NHL draft lottery. (Canadian Press)

    –Two-time Olympic gold medalist Sharon Szabados loves curing and the Oilers and she was forced to make a tough choice on Saturday. (Sportsnet)

    Pascal Dupuis, who was named one of the Masterton Trophy finalists, is adjusting to retirement. (NHL.com)

    Pavelski’s late goal helps Sharks grab 2-0 series lead over Preds

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    The San Jose Sharks became the only team in the second round to jump out to a 2-0 lead in their series. The Sharks did it by beating the Predators 3-2 in Game 2 on Sunday night.

    San Jose opened the scoring in the second period when Logan Couture buried a rebound by Preds goalie Pekka Rinne. Brent Burns took the initial shot from the point and extended his playoff point streak to four games.

    The Predators finally got on the board at the 12:56 mark of the third period when Mattias Ekholm tied the game at one.

    Here’s the goal:

    Nashville’s good fortune didn’t last very long. Sharks captain Joe Pavelski gave San Jose a 2-1 lead less than five minutes later.

    Pavelski also picked up two assists in the game. The 31-year-old has at least one point in six of his seven postseason games in 2016.

    Joe Thornton then added an empty-netter in the final minute of play before Ryan Johansen scored with four seconds remaining.

    Despite the loss, Preds head coach Peter Laviolette wasn’t too disappointed by the way his team played.

    The Predators outshot the Sharks (39-25), they outhit San Jose (46-26), but they just couldn’t outscore them.

    Like the old saying goes: “you’re not in trouble until you lose a game on home ice.” The Preds still haven’t done that, which means they’re not done yet.

    The series now shifts to Nashville for Game 3, which will be played on Tuesday night.

    Video: Marc-Edouard Vlasic saved by his visor after taking Shea Weber shot to the face

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    It’s a scary night for players getting hit in the head with pucks.

    After Brian Elliott was hit in the head by a Jason Spezza slapshot, it was Marc-Edouard Vlasic‘s turn to narrowly avoid disaster.

    In the third period of Sunday’s game against the Predators, Vlasic took a puck to the face. The end result could have been catastrophic had Vlasic not had a visor.

    You can see the incident by clicking the video at the top of the page.

    It’s nice to see that Vlasic was in a joking mood after the game:

    Hockey Twitter breathed a collective sigh of relief after Vlasic got back up:

    It sounds like Olli Maatta won’t be ready for Game 3

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    You’ve all seen it by now (if you haven’t, click the video at the top of page). Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta was forced to leave Game 2 against the Capitals after taking a late hit from Brooks Orpik. Not only was the hit late, but Orpik also caught Maatta in the head.

    After the Penguins’ optional skate on Sunday, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan wasn’t optimistic about Maatta’s chances of playing in Game 3 on Monday night.

    “Olli’s being evaluated as we speak, so I don’t have any real update as far as his status is concerned,” Sullivan said, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He’s being evaluated today, we’ll probably have more information in the morning.

    “I don’t have a lot of sense of his availability. I’m probably not optimistic, though.”

    After the game, Capitals coach Barry Trotz stood up for his defenseman.

    “We’ll let the league handle it,” Trotz said, per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “If you know anything about Brooks, he plays hard, he plays clean. He’s not a dirty player.”

    And the league certainly did handle it, as they suspended Orpik for three games.

    Related:

    Penguins coach takes issue with late, high Orpik hit on Maatta