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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    IOC resistant to NHL’s demand to be treated like Olympic sponsor

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    In order for the NHL to keep sending its players to the Olympics, Gary Bettman wants the IOC to treat his league more like an Olympic sponsor gets treated.

    “We don’t even get the opportunity to promote the fact that we’re at the Olympics,” Bettman lamented earlier this month. “We don’t get to use the rings. I’ve said to the IOC, you know, Coca-Cola is a sponsor, they get to promote their association and say ‘proud sponsor of the Olympics.’ They won’t let us do that.”

    It’s not a wholly unfair request by the commissioner. The NHL has to disrupt its season to send players to the Games, and the owners have to risk the health of their stars.

    That said, it doesn’t sound like the IOC is going to budge.

    “Obviously, this time the owners of the NHL clubs are putting more commercial conditions to the IOC and the Olympic movement,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams told Reuters.

    “The IOC knows that the NHL understands that the Olympic movement cannot treat the owners of a commercial franchise of a national league better than an international sports federation or other professional leagues with regard to the Olympic Games.”

    Translation: The IOC isn’t about to open a can of worms. (See: Mark Cuban, NBA participation)

    Recently, NHLPA chief Donald Fehr summed up the NHL’s desire to get compensated for Olympic participation.

    “Based on the proposals to us and the suggestions to the IOC, they don’t care who pays them,” Fehr told Postmedia. “They just want somebody to.”

    And according to Fehr, it won’t be the players who pay the NHL.

    So if the players aren’t going to give the NHL anything, and the IOC isn’t going to give the NHL anything, well, you see the problem.

    Bylsma calls Reinhart’s rule violation, subsequent benching ‘disappointing’

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    There was a strange sight during Buffalo’s 3-1 loss to Columbus on Tuesday night: Sabres forward Sam Reinhart, fully dressed, sitting on the end of the bench.

    And not moving.

    At all.

    Reinhart was parked for the entire 60 minutes last night, which the Sabres later revealed to be punishment for violating team policy. According to a Buffalo News source, the 21-year-old showed up late to a meeting in the team hotel.

    Suffice to say, Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma wasn’t happy with the situation, or the outcome.

    “We’re going to move forward from here,” Bylsma said. “Disappointing, but it happened and we dealt with it. We’re going to move on from here.

    “We’re part of a team. We do things as a team. That’s hopefully the lesson.”

    This isn’t the first time Reinhart’s run afoul of Bylsma this season.

    In late October — and with Reinhart failing to find the back of the net — Bylsma said the club needed to get more out of the sophomore forward, who had 23 goals and 42 points as a rookie last season.

    That said, Reinhart has exceeded his point total from last year, currently on 46, and has been a steady lineup presence (well, aside from last night). He’s one of just a handful of Sabres to appear in 70-plus games this season, and saw his TOI jump up to 17:15 per night.

    NHL on NBCSN: Injury-riddled Pens look to snap three-game skid against slumping Blackhawks

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    NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2016-17 campaign tonight when the Pittsburgh Penguins host the Chicago Blackhawks at 8:00 p.m. ET. If you want to watch the game online, you can do so here.

    Since the All-Star break, the Blackhawks have been one of the better teams in the NHL. Their terrific run over the last few weeks has not only allowed them to jump ahead of Minnesota for top spot in the Central, but it’s also enabled them to build a seven-point lead over their division rival.

    But it’s not all perfect in Chicago right now. Despite the fact that they’re in a good spot in the standings, the ‘Hawks had a rough ride through Florida in the last few days.

    On Saturday night, they were thumped 7-0 by the Panthers, and on Monday, they blew a 4-1 lead to the Tampa Bay Lightning before losing in overtime.

    Their effort may have been better on Monday than it was on Saturday, but it still wasn’t enough to propel them to victory.

    “I thought we were 100 percent better than we were last game,” head coach Joel Quenneville said after the loss to the Bolts, per the Chicago Tribune. “I know we had everything going our way there and we started getting cute in the neutral zone and had turnovers in that area, gave them rush chances.”

    The performances in their last two games led defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson to suggest that his team was “too comfortable” this late into the season.

    The ‘Hawks have dropped three of their last four games (their only win came in a shootout victory over Dallas).

    Now, they’ll have an opportunity to get back on track against the defending Stanley Cup champions.

    The Penguins are having issues of their own, and it’s mostly injury-related.

    Pittsburgh has been without Evgeni Malkin, Carl Hagelin, Jake Guentzel, Kris Letang, Trevor Daley, Olli Maatta and Ron Hainsey, and it’s clearly affected their play.

    There’s a bit of good news on the injury front. Conor Sheary, who suffered a lower-body injury on Sunday, is expected to play tonight.

    Malkin was able to skate on his own on Tuesday, and head coach Mike Sullivan hopes to get him back soon.

    “Our medical staff has a good handle on it,” Sullivan said, per the Pittsburgh Tribune. “He’s going through a process both on and off the ice. He skated this morning, and he’s making progress, so we’re encouraged and we’re hopeful we’ll get him back sooner than later.”

    Coming into tonight’s game, the Penguins have dropped three in a row to the Senators (shootout), Islanders (shootout) and Flyers.

    The Pens aren’t in any danger of missing the playoffs, but they’re still battling for home-ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs.

    Columbus’ win over Buffalo pushed them two points ahead of the Penguins (both have played 75 games). The Jackets also have four more regulation/overtime wins.

    The Capitals, who beat Minnesota last night, are three points up on Columbus and five points up on Pittsburgh.

    PHT Morning Skate: Joel Armia scored an amazing shorthanded goal you’ll have to see to believe

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    Joel Armia has developed into a very useful player for the Winnipeg Jets, and on Tuesday night, he scored an incredible end-to-end goal that you won’t want to miss. He fought off one New Jersey Devil then got around two others before scoring this beautiful shorthanded goal. (Top)

    –The Score breaks down the best “bang for your buck” contracts on each Canadian team. It’s not shocking to see Senators goalie Mike Condon on this list. The second-year netminder has been with three teams this season, but he’s come through in a big way for the Senators, and he only makes $575,000. (The Score)

    –The ESPN Hockey writers put together a list of what they think the Vegas Golden Knights roster is going to look like after the expansion draft. Some well-known names like Andrew Cogliano, Jonas Brodin, Mikkel Boedker, Tomas Plekanec, Jonathan Marchessault, Carl Hagelin and Jakob Silfverberg all made the list. (ESPN)

    –Elliotte Friedman’s “30 Thoughts” blog touched on some advice David Poile had for the Golden Knights now that the Oakland Raiders will be moving to Vegas. “You have to do your own thing. We created our ‘Predator Way.’ The Smashville idea and name. In-game entertainment fitting the market. Those things worked.” Friedman also wrote about Ken Hitchcock possibly returning to Dallas, and much more. (Sportsnet)

    –Brampton Thunder forward Laura Stacey is the great-granddaughter of hall-of-fame defenseman King Clancy. Recently, Stacey decided she wanted to do a little digging into her great-grandfather’s career, and it really allowed her to get an appreciation for everything he accomplished. “Now I understand how hard he worked, how passionate and determined he was to be the best. Yes, it was a different era, but I can only imagine how hard he had to work to get where he was. As I get older, it makes it more special in that I know more the kind of guy he was.” (Canadian Press)

    –The Montreal Canadiens have had some incredible defensemen come through their organization, but last night, Andrei Markov was able to reach an impressive milestone. By picking up an assist in a 4-1 win over Dallas, he tied Guy Lapointe for second in points by a defenseman in franchise history. Larry Robinson’s mark is pretty safe.