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.

Scroll Down For:

    Kesler believes Ducks are ‘too good to not be in the playoffs’

    Shane Doan, Ryan Kesler
    Leave a comment

    It’s been 24 games for the Anaheim Ducks, more than a quarter of the season, and still they’re having trouble winning.

    Friday against Chicago, they surrendered two goals in the last two minutes of regulation and lost in overtime.

    Currently, the Ducks sit five points out of a playoff spot with a record of 8-11-5.

    Still, forward Ryan Kesler is confident they’ll find a way into the postseason.

    “If we keep playing like we are, we’re going to get into the playoffs — this team is too good to not be in the playoffs,” Kesler told The Province ahead of tonight’s home game versus Vancouver.

    “We had a bad start and, to be honest, some guys weren’t ready to start the season. There’s a lot of hockey to be played and we’re ready for the challenge.”

    To match the 45-30-7 record the Flames squeaked into the playoffs with last year, the Ducks would need to go 37-19-2 over their next 58 games.




    Depends who you ask.

    Anaheim’s playoff chances will depend a lot on how Pacific Division teams like San Jose, Arizona, and Vancouver finish. The Ducks may need to leapfrog two of those three to get in.

    Yes, there’s always the chance four teams from the Pacific qualify, because it’s not like Colorado, Winnipeg, and Minnesota don’t have their problems. Even Nashville you have to wonder about lately. Heck, even Chicago isn’t assured of anything yet.

    Bottom line, though, the Ducks have dug themselves a hole, and it’s starting to look a lot like the one the Kings dug last year.

    In the NHL, even good teams don’t always climb out.

    Related: Boudreau does the playoff math, and it’s no ‘easy task’ for Ducks

    Video: Ryan Suter doesn’t seem very happy with his coach


    As you can see in the video, apparently Ryan Suter doesn’t like being paired with fellow lefty Jonas Brodin.

    The Wild defenseman rather openly questioned the coaching staff’s decision-making today after practice.

    “Yeah, I don’t know what they’re thinking,” said Suter. “I need to play with a right-handed defenseman. To give me more options. Neutral zone. Offensively. And even coming out of the D zone, it’s not fair to put a guy on his off side.”

    Suter didn’t know if the pairings were just for practice or not. The Wild play tomorrow in Chicago. Minnesota has just one win in its last seven games.

    Suter also had something to say about that.

    “It does no good to pout and get pissed off at each other,” said Suter. “You’ve got to come together and dig out of this. Now’s when you need leadership more than ever. It’s easy to be a coach and a leader when things are going good.”

    Yeo, by the way, has not been very happy with the Wild lately.  In fact, one could go so far as to say he’s been acting pretty “pissed off.”

    For example, at today’s practice:

    The Star Tribune has more on what went down today.

    Yeo, you may recall, went a little “nuts” during a Wild practice last season.

    Goalie nods: Sparks to make NHL debut for Leafs

    Garett Sparks

    We already knew this yesterday, but in case you missed it, Garret Sparks will make his NHL debut in goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight against Edmonton.

    Sparks, 22, has been excellent in the AHL this season, going 8-2-1 with a .938 save percentage. He spent most of last season in the ECHL, where he also posted good numbers.

    Sparks is getting the nod tonight because James Reimer is hurt and Jonathan Bernier has been struggling badly.

    “He’s got an opportunity like lots of kids have had before him and it’s up to him to grab it,” Leafs coach Mike Babcock said, per “He’s got the [second-best] save percentage in the AHL and he’s winning all the time down there. Obviously we’re in need of some saves and we’ll have to play well in front of him for sure. But it’s an opportunity for him.”

    Bernier, meanwhile, will have to sit and watch. The 27-year-old has allowed at least four goals in four of his last five starts. His save percentage has fallen all the way to .888.

    Anders Nilsson will be in net for the Oilers.


    Cam Ward for the Hurricanes. Henrik Lundqvist for the Rangers, who will try not to rely on him so much.

    Semyon Varlamov for the Avs. Thomas Greiss for the Isles.

    — The Canucks aren’t saying if it’ll be Ryan Miller of Jacob Markstrom. For the Ducks, it’ll be John Gibson.

    Vigneault: ‘After three losses in a row, I think we’ve got everybody’s attention’

    Alain Vigneault

    Alain Vigneault has maintained for much of the season that the New York Rangers needed to play better.

    The head coach said it a week ago, after the Blueshirts had beaten the Predators, 3-0, despite getting outshot, 31-19.

    He’d said it a couple of weeks before that, after they’d beaten the Hurricanes in very similar fashion. (Final score: 3-0. Shots: 33-23 for Carolina.)

    But as long as the Rangers kept winning, it was tough, according to Vigneault, to get the message across.

    “Sometimes, the results might be going your way, so when you’re pointing out certain things, it might be a little bit more challenging for them to understand because the results are so positive,” Vigneault said, per the New York Post.

    “But after three losses in a row, I think we’ve got everybody’s attention.”

    Derek Stepan‘s injury — he’ll miss 4-6 weeks with broken ribs — has no doubt captured their attention as well. (Oscar Lindberg will center Chris Kreider and Jesper Fast tonight at home to Carolina.)

    The Rangers also play Wednesday, in Brooklyn against the Islanders (on NBCSN).