The main rule from now on when it comes to dealing with Ilya Kovalchuk and his ongoing saga with the New Jersey Devils is to expect nothing and to be ready for everything. Today proved to be ripe with information surrounding the league apparently shooting down the framework to a second contract between Kovalchuk and the Devils. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was asked about the truth to that and he opted to play semantics with ESPN’s Scott Burnside instead.
“In order for a contract to be rejected, there would have to be a signed contract submitted,” Bettman said Wednesday after addressing the World Hockey Summit. “There has not been a signed contract submitted.”
But Bettman did not dispute that there has likely been ongoing dialogue between the Devils and the league over what might be allowed under the salary cap.
“I don’t know if there has been such cap advice, what the specifics of it might be, and I wouldn’t comment on it anyway because that’s a dialogue we regularly have with our clubs,” Bettman said.
When it comes to matters like these, Gary Bettman is like a real-life genie. If you’re not asking him the question you want the answer to in the correct way in order to elicit the answer you’re looking for, you’re not going to get any of the information you’re looking for. Thankfully we don’t need to rub a magic lamp to make him appear in order to ask him these questions.
Of course, all this sort of bluster does is open the door for KHL president Alexander Medvedev to once again proclaim his league’s apparent open-door policy for Ilya Kovalchuk. Lucky for us, Medvedev is also in Toronto for the World Hockey Summit and happily shared his stance with the media as The Sporting News’ Craig Custance shares.
On Wednesday, while in Toronto for the World Hockey Summit, Medvedev said he received a call from Kovalchuk’s agent and planned on calling him back after meeting with reporters.
“It could be big news,” he joked.
But he’s seriously hopeful Kovalchuk will end up playing in his league, especially in light of reports that the league rejected the latest Kovalchuk proposal from the Devils.
“I just got today in the morning that the new draft of the contract was rejected. Ilya knows that our proposal is still on the table,” Medvedev said.
It must be nice to have that kind of opportunity open to you if things get too screwed up in the league you really want to play in. Yes, Kovalchuk absolutely wants to be in the NHL and the threat of the KHL “swooping in to steal him” is nothing but idle chatter from folks eager to create drama.
As for NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, he’s preaching the company line about adhering to the rules handed down by systems arbitrator Richard Bloch.
“Obviously he’s a great player and we want him playing in the National Hockey League and I believe he wants to play in the National Hockey League,” said NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly. “Having said that, I think it’s very, very important to protect our rules and to make decisions based on our rules and if it means losing a player, I’d rather protect our rules than make an exception for an exceptional player.”
All we’ve got out of all this is a public relations fiasco of the highest order. If the NHLPA were a tougher union, it’s possible that this whole circus isn’t going on but that’s an awfully large straw-man kind of argument. The fact remains that there’s no real blueprint for how Kovalchuk, his agent Jay Grossman, Devils GM Lou Lamoriello and Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek should be approaching this situation. Doing things the way the league wants it done means that the Devils blow up their team to fit Kovalchuk under the cap and doing things the Devils way is apparently the complete wrong way to do things.
The saga continues.