Ilya Kovalchuk's stunning contract with the Devils: By the numbers

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ilyakovalchuk6.jpgRich Chere from the Newark Star-Ledger is the bearer of bad news for fans of fiscal responsibility as we know it as he gives us the official not-yet official (Tom Gulitti tweets that it’s not official yet but the NHL approving it won’t be an issue) contract numbers on the deal signed by Ilya Kovalchuk with the New Jersey Devils. Take a look at how things break down.

Ilya Kovalchuk’s blockbuster 17-year contract with the Devils is finally complete and approved by the NHL.

Here are the details of the deal, which has been filed with the NHL and NHL Players’ Association:

2010-11: $6 million
2011-12: $6 million
2012-13: $11.5 million
2013-14: $11.5 million
2014-15: $11.5 million
2015-16: $11.5 million
2016-17: $11.5 million
2017-18: $10.5 million
2018-19: $8.5 million
2019-20: $6.5 million
2020-21: $3.5 Million
2021-22: $750,000
2022-23: $550,000
2023-24: $550,000
2024-25: $550,000
2025-26: $550,000
2026-27: $550,000

Obviously, the most laughable part of it all is how the final five years of the contract pay out at a paltry $550,000 a year. Of course, those years are when Kovalchuk would be between the ages of 39-44 and could very well be done with hockey by that point, thus making it much easier for the Devils (or anyone else) to buy out his contract for an amount that won’t do anything to fudge with a team’s salary cap.

As for the meat and bones of the deal, think about this, when Ilya Kovalchuk is 34 years-old, he’ll be making $10.5 million that season. While the cap hit is all that matters in NHL economics it’s still an absolutely staggering number and one that not a lot of folks are too pleased with. Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune was one of the first to break the rumored and now official numbers and sounded off about the nature of deals like this and the snark is warm.

Take Ilya Kovalchuk’s contract: He signed a deal today with New Jersey for $102 million over 17 years for an annual cap hit of $6 million. He’s allegedly going to play until he’s 44, averaging $583,000 a year the final SIX years of his contract.

The NHL is allegedly “investigating” drastically-frontloaded contracts like Chris Pronger’s, Roberto Luongo’s, Marian Hossa’s, Johan Franzen’s and Henrik Zetterberg to see if there is any evidence of talk of retirement.

Even writing that sentence, I literally laughed out loud.

 

What’s stunning about this truly incredible deal is that this is all working on the assumption that the league won’t be locked out two or even three times by the time the deal reaches those waning years where Kovalchuk will be making what amounts to be the league minimum.

To put this in some kind of bizarro perspective, simply put, for the kind of player that the NHL has never seen reach unrestricted free agency, a bonafide superstar with talent beyond belief, it’s only fair that we’re seeing a mind-bending contract the likes of which we’ve never seen before and likely never will again. Even in the gigantic contracts used to sign the likes of Henrik Zetterberg, Chris Pronger and Marian Hossa, we’ve not seen one that had the numbers jump and dive so much before all in an effort to keep both the cap number down and to make the deal as pain-free for the signing team when the player reaches his twilight seasons.

Of course, not a lot of that means squat to most fans. They see a contract that goes on for an enternity that has an ultimate total that goes into nine (!!!) figures and in a league where greatness is appreciated while the fans still have some sense of grounded modesty, the reverberations are huge. While Ilya Kovalchuk might be on the fringe of the media spotlight in New Jersey, he’s now the major superstar the Devils franchise has never had before and he’s their guy for the next 17 seasons. Here’s to hoping that the Hockey Gods don’t frown upon a superstar getting rewarded.

Lightning, Islanders make East playoff races even more confusing

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 01: Ben Bishop #30 of the Tampa Bay Lightning makes the third period save as Ryan Strome #18 of the New York Islanders looks for a rebound at the Barclays Center on November 1, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Whenever you groan at what seems like a quiet trade market, take a step back and ask yourself this: “Who is really out of it?”

For a while there, it felt reasonable to dismiss the chances of teams like the Florida Panthers, New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning. Now? There’s probably only a handful of teams that can really be comfortable, at this very point, with calling themselves sellers.

The Islanders took care of their business with a 3-1 win against the fading (probably selling?) Detroit Red Wings, even with Petr Mrazek making a save like this.

Meanwhile, Ben Bishop might just be putting his game together (while Nikita Kucherov‘s game remains very much together) as the Tampa Bay Lightning throttled the Edmonton Oilers 4-1. Bishop might just end up being indispensable – or at least not worth trading – as he’s on a five-game winning streak.

With those wins, the races for the last seemingly available Eastern Conference playoff spots just get that much muddier.*

Third place in the Atlantic: Maple Leafs – 67 points in 59 games, 28 wins, 27 ROW

Second wild card: Panthers – 66 points in 58 GP, 28 W, 25 ROW

Bruins – 66 points in 59 GP, 30 W, 28 ROW
Islanders – 66 points in 59 GP, 28 W, 27 ROW
Flyers – 63 points in 59 GP, 28 W, 23 ROW
Lightning – 62 points in 59 GP, 27 W, 25 ROW
Sabres – 62 points in 60 GP, 26 W, 25 ROW

Wow, that’s crazy-close. Naturally, teams like the Islanders and Flyers lack the luxury of having a third spot in reasonable reach – unless things get truly wild – but that’s quite the congested group of playoff hopefuls.

And, sure, the Bolts are among those facing longer odds, but the way things keep swinging wildly this season, who knows? Especially with a team with a track record of success and high expectations like the Lightning.

* – We’ll arbitrarily cut off the East race at the Devils, but just in case you’re wondering, they have 60 points, the Red Wings have 58 and the Hurricanes have 56. Also, the Ottawa Senators hold the second spot in the Atlantic with 70 points and the Montreal Canadiens lead the division with 72, so that group could see quite a bit of movement over the last quarter of the season.

Forsberg’s hat trick, own-goal highlights Predators’ wild OT loss to Flames

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If you want to summarize the kind of night the Nashville Predators experienced, you could do worse than to draw parallels to Filip Forsberg‘s experiences.

The highs were quite high, you see. Forsberg & Co. carved away at the Calgary Flames’ 4-1 lead as his hat trick (see above) eventually gave the Predators a fleeting 5-4 edge.

We all should have seen more drama coming … and it did. Forsberg ended up being at the wrong place at the wrong time in overtime; the Flames’ 6-5 overtime winner ended up going off of his foot. Ouch.

Mark Giordano ended up being credited with that goal. The game was just a barn-burner.

While it was an up-and-down night for both the Flames and Predators, Pekka Rinne‘s evening was pretty much uniformly dismal.

Rinne was pulled early in the second period after giving up four goals on 13 shots, making way for Juuse Saros (who actually ended up gtting tagged with the loss).

The Flames can breathe a sigh of relief after winning the game despite coughing up a big lead, improving to 64 points and strengthening their grip on the second wild card spot. That “charity point” comes in handy for Nashville, leaving the Predators with 65 points and a game in hand on the Flames.

Serious performance: Blackhawks gain on Wild thanks to Toews’ five points

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If the Chicago Blackhawks are going to make up some serious ground and overtake the Minnesota Wild for the Central Division title, they’ll need wins like these.

It’s only fitting that “Captain Serious” Jonathan Toews did the heavy lifting, generating a hat trick and two assists as the Blackhawks beat the Wild 5-3 on Tuesday.

Yes, Toews was involved in every goal. And yes, the Blackhawks won this one in regulation after beating the Wild in overtime last time around. It’s a nice swing for Chicago:

Central Division title chase

1. Wild – 84 points in 59 games (39 wins, 36 ROW)
2. Blackhawks – 79 points in 60 games (37 wins, 35 ROW)

Yeah, that’s still a substantial edge for Minnesota … but this is a significant swing.

Even beyond the name recognition that comes with Toews & Co., the Blackhawks’ push shouldn’t be surprising. They’re red-hot in February so far, going 7-1-0 despite playing seven of eight on the road (strangely losing that lone home contest).

The Wild have played reasonably well in their own right, yet this loss sends them into a bye week with some frustration … and maybe some questions about whether they can hold the Blackhawks off.

Also, tonight marked a nice milestone for Joel Quenneville:

Matthews, Leafs get last laugh in OT vs. Laine and the Jets

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Hockey fans tend to get their radars up about over-hyping things, particularly promising rookies.

Is it hasty, then, to wonder if there’s something to a rivalry between Auston Matthews (and the Maple Leafs) vs. Patrik Laine (plus the Jets)? If nothing else, the two have come up big in two very exciting games.

Back in October, Laine generated a hat trick as the Jets beat the Maple Leafs 5-4 in overtime. This time around, it was another 5-4 overtime decision … only Matthews and the Maple Leafs took this round.

This isn’t to take anything away from Laine’s performance, mind you. He scored two goals on Tuesday, becoming the rare modern rookie to muster 30 goals. He reminded hockey fans that he only needs the smallest window to make you pay with his deadly, world-class shot.

MORE on that goal and the violence that ensued here.

But Matthews wouldn’t be denied, either, and fittingly did so in a quieter fashion. (Virtually everyone seems a little quieter when Laine’s around, it seems.)

The Maple Leafs’ outstanding rookie managed three assists in this game, giving him 52 points in 59 games. He also has six points in a three-game run and eight in his past five.

Laine? He now has 54 points in 55 games, extending is own point streak to five games (seven goals, three assists).

In other words, it’s really close … just like the games when these two budding stars (and their young, promising teammates) meet.

You might even be tempted to believe the hype.