It wouldn’t be a complete day in the NHL off-season without some update on what’s going on with Ilya Kovalchuk. While we saw the rumors explode yesterday that Kovalchuk was headed to Los Angeles today to sign with the Kings, only to have them immediately shot down by mostly everyone, he is indeed in LA nonetheless. The LA Kings Insider Rich Hammond gives us the update with what could be looked into with Kovalchuk’s meeting with Kings GM Dean Lombardi in Los Angeles.
I noticed that Dean Lombardi didn’t repeat his very first comment, which was that Kovalchuk was visiting “just like any free agent would.” Well, I’ve been covering Lombardi’s transactions for four years, and this is the first I’ve heard of it. I know, for a fact, that Rob Scuderi didn’t come to L.A. when he signed last summer. So Kovalchuk’s mere presence here would suggest that there’s reason for mutual optimism between the Kings and Kovalchuk, given that they presumably seek to get a deal done, but it’s no slam dunk.
Optimism is a wonderful thing to have. I’m sure that Ilya doesn’t need to be sold on how wonderful southern California can be and the kind of city Los Angeles can be for a superstar that has great success there. Heck, just have him talk to Wayne Gretzky or Magic Johnson or Kobe Bryant. That’s not to say that Rob Scuderi and Ilya Kovalchuk are even on the same planet as far as being a hotly pursued free agent go, however. The one thing about Scuderi and Kovalchuk that you could argue is similar is that they both look like obvious fits for the Kings that need to be addressed.
As for the New Jersey Devils, you know the other team in pursuit of Kovalchuk, Devils GM Lou Lamoriello was asked for an update on how things are going in negotiations and came back with a classic zinger.
Nothing new on the Ilya Kovalchuk front.
“Everything is the same as it was the last three or four days,” general manager Lou Lamoriello said. “I don’t have anything to add to that.”
Lamoriello was asked if he is philosophically against signing a player to a contract 10 years or longer.
“I don’t think philosophically,” he responded.
I don’t think we can blame Lou for being a bit cranky with being asked about Kovalchuk so much, but if it’s going to lead to him landing a position as host of NHL celebrity roasts, I am all for it. That said, if Kovalchuk’s agent Jay Grossman and Kovalchuk himself are looking for a great day to make a news splash signing a contract, especially if it were to be with the Kings (Hollywood and all that), doing it on Wednesday would be ideal. There’s little to nothing sports-wise going on as Major League Baseball is on its All-Star break and the only thing attempting to hog the attention of sports fans will be the supremely lame ESPY Awards. Do it Ilya, grab that spotlight by the ears and yank.
New Jersey d-man Jon Merrill, who struggled through an injury-riddled campaign, has undergone successful shoulder surgery with an expected recovery time of four months, the club announced on Wednesday.
Merrill, 24, only appeared in 47 games this year, first missing time with an arm injury, then suffering a shoulder ailment late in the year.
There was no clear indication if the two ailments were related, but Merrill’s arm injury was on the right side, and surgery was on his right shoulder.
A former University of Michigan standout taken 38th overall in 2010, Merrill enjoyed solid rookie and sophomore campaigns in New Jersey. His second year was especially solid — 14 points in 66 games, averaging over 20 minutes per night — and he boasts good size, going 6-foot-3, 205 pounds.
Based on the four-month timetable for recovery, Merrill will likely miss parts of New Jersey’s training camp and preseason action.
After a 10-year career with over 700 games played and one Stanley Cup, Maxime Talbot could be done in the NHL.
Per RDS, Talbot — who’ll hit unrestricted free agency on July 1 — has “some options in Europe” for next season, and is contemplating a move overseas.
In his prime, Talbot was a gritty, hardworking forward with decent touch around the net. He scored double-digit goals four times, including a career-high 19 in ’11-12.
The 32-year-old split last season between Boston and its AHL affiliate in Providence, scoring seven points in 38 games at the NHL level.
Talbot did acquit himself very well with the P-Bruins — 21 points in 26 games — and has some experience playing abroad, having suited up for Finnish League club Ilves Tampere during the lockout.
Based on how things went last year in free agency, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Talbot land in Europe.
The likes of Maxim Lapierre, Curtis Glencross and Marcel Goc all failed to score NHL contracts last summer — Lapierre and Goc proceeded to sign overseas, while Glencross opted to retire.
Alpo Suhonen, who became the first European-born NHL coach in over 50 years upon taking the Chicago gig in 2000, has been named the new bench boss of the Austrian men’s national team, per IIHF.com.
Suhonen, 67, takes over from former NHL defenseman Dan Ratushny, who was splitting duties between Team Austria and Lausanne of the Swiss League.
Suhonen takes over the national team at a critical juncture. Austria finished a disappointing fourth at the 2016 World Hockey Championship Division 1 tournament — meaning the country finished 20th overall. As the IIHF websites notes, that’s the worst finish for Austria in 86 years of WHC competition.
Looking forward, Austria does have a chance to make amends this summer, when it will play a series of contests to prep for Olympic qualification.
Suhonen inherits a roster with decent NHL pedigree as Thomas Vanek, Michael Raffl and Michael Grabner are all eligible to participate.
That said, Vanek was named to Team Europe’s initial 16-man roster for the World Cup of Hockey, and it remains to be seen how that will impact his national team commitments.
Gennady Timchenko, the billionaire chairman of KHL club SKA Saint Petersburg, reportedly believes there’s a “good chance” that Pavel Datsyuk will be playing for his team next season.
But according to Datsyuk’s agent, Dan Milstein, there’s only been an offer from SKA. Nothing has been signed yet. There could still be offers from other KHL teams for his client to consider.
And at any rate, Milstein insisted once again that Datysuk won’t be making any decisions until he speaks with the Detroit Red Wings in mid-June, after the 37-year-old returns from a family vacation.
Milstein passed along that update to Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press, plus a few other Wings reporters.
Related: Datsyuk ‘wants to make sure the Wings have options’