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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    Jarome Iginla skates with AHL Providence, still wants to play

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    Jarome Iginla is still without a team but isn’t giving up hope just yet on one last ride in the NHL.

    The 40-year-old Iginla, who last played in 2016-17 with the Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings, was spotted on the ice at Providence Bruins practice on Tuesday, but there’s nothing in the works as far as a deal anywhere, he told the Providence Journal’s Mark Divver.

    Iginla’s name popped up in contention for a spot on the Canadian Olympic team this fall, but a hip procedure cost him time on the ice and ultimately a place in GM Sean Burke’s final roster for PyeongChang. (The Canadians are doing just fine without him having reached the semifinals of the tournament.)

    Now living in the Boston area after buying a house last spring, Iginla, who played 78 games with the NHL Bruins during the 2013-14 season, was simply taking advantage of a favor from the team. He’s expected to skate with AHL Providence again on Thursday as he continues to see where his body is physically.

    Iginla — and for that matter, U.S. Olympian Brian Gionta, who’s also looking to continue playing — can sign with any NHL team, but to be eligible to play in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs a deal needs to be inked before the 3 p.m. ET trade deadline next Monday.

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    Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

    Fight Video: Nicolas Deslauriers lands several good shots on Brandon Manning

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    Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang.

    The Montreal Canadiens may have come out on the wrong end of Tuesday’s 3-2 overtime decision in Philadelphia, but Nicolas Deslauriers definitely won his fight against Flyers defenseman Brandon Manning.

    This was Deslauriers’ first game since signing a two-year, one-way contract extension worth $950, 000 per year. The 26-year-old has brought a physical presence to Montreal’s lineup, but he’s also chipped in with seven goals. On Tuesday, he made more of an impact with his knuckles than anything else.

    Take a look four yourself by clicking the video at the top of the page.

    Believe it or not, this isn’t the first time these two players go head-to-head on the ice. They also fought when Deslauriers was a member of the Buffalo Sabres.

    If you’re more interested in finding out what happened last night’s game, click here.

    Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

    PHT Morning Skate: Vegas might have best line in hockey; 3 things NHL should take from Olympics

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    Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

    • The rivalry between Canada’s women’s team and the United States women’s team doesn’t have the same bite it did a few years ago. (NBC Olympics)

    • American twin sisters Monique Lamoureux-Morando and Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson have been playing like they have something to prove. (The Ice Garden)

    • Former NHL goalie Jonas Hiller won’t play for team Switzerland anymore. (Swiss Hockey News)

    • There’s a group of Kenyan hockey players that want to take part in future Olympic Games. (ESPN)

    • The NHL can grow in popularity if they sample three things from the Olympics. (Vice Sports)

    Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang.

    • Trade rumors can weigh on a player as the trade deadline approaches. Just ask Tyler Johnson how that feels. (Tampa Times)

    • The Rangers will go through a hard time over the next little while, but it could all be worth it in the end. (NY Post)

    • Don’t expect the Golden Knights to make big moves before Monday’s trade deadline. (Knights on Ice)

    • Speaking of Vegas, they might have the best line in hockey. (TSN.ca)

    • Winnipeg has had a hard time trading for players with no-move clauses, but that’s nothing to be offended by. (Jets Nation)

    • Even though they won’t make the playoffs this year, the Panthers certainly have a bright future ahead. (Fan Rag Sports)

    • As bad as things are for the Montreal Canadiens, they’ll probably get a whole lot worse. (Rabid Habs)

    • The San Jose Sharks acquired veteran forward Eric Fehr from the Maple Leafs. (NHL.com/Sharks)

    • Is Blues forward Patrik Berglund still a useful player? (Blues Rants)

    • The World’s Longest Hockey Game raised over $1.2 million for cancer research this year. (Edmonton Journal)

    Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

    The Buzzer: Mac attack, Barrie impressive

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    Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang.

    Players of the Night:

    • Click here for details regarding a clutch night from Jakub Voracek, who played a huge role with two goals (including the OT game-winner) and an assist for the Flyers in beating the Habs.
    • Frederik Andersen was stellar for the Maple Leafs, pitching a 40-save shutout against the Florida Panthers. Toronto only won 1-0, so they needed every save from their franchise goalie. Andersen tends to face a lot of shots on goal, and he’s put out some stellar performances in the process:

    • Two Avalanche players take the cake for players of the night, overall.

    Nathan MacKinnon didn’t return to action, technically, on Tuesday. This was actually his second game back.

    That said, it felt like Mac was truly back here, scoring the overtime game-winner and collecting three assists to help Colorado scrap its way to an OT win against the Canucks. With this output, MacKinnon has set a new career-high for points, and he has plenty of time to add to his already impressive point total of 65 points (25 goals, 40 assists).

    Tyson Barrie was outstanding in his own right, arguably more impressive than MacKinnon. Quite ridiculously, the Avalanche scored all five of its goals on the power play, and Barrie collected a point in all five. He scored a goal and generated four assists, with three of those helpers being primary assists.

    Injuries make Barrie’s fantastic work in 2017-18 slip under the radar a bit. With these five points in mind, Barrie now has 36 points in just 45 games. Over an 82-game season, that would translate to almost 66 points.

    Highlight of the Night: Another fantastic Nikita Kucherov goal.

    Kucherov already has 32 goals and 78 points this season. He edges Taylor Hall, whose fantastic coast-to-coast goal was good enough for a post, but couldn’t quite get it done for the Devils, who fell to Columbus in regulation.

    Factoids

    You have to love the neat-and-tidiness of Anze Kopitar scoring his 800th point in his 900th regular-season game:

    Where do you think Alex Ovechkin will end up once he hangs up his skates, hopefully a long time from now?

    So far, pretty good for Dion Phaneuf in Los Angeles:

    Scores

    Maple Leafs 1, Panthers 0
    Blue Jackets 2, Devils 1
    Flyers 3, Canadiens 2 (OT)
    Lightning 4, Capitals 2
    Predators 3, Red Wings 2
    Sharks 3, Blues 2
    Kings 4, Jets 3
    Bruins 3, Oilers 2
    Avalanche 5, Canucks 4 (OT)

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.