Bettman denies refusing second Kovalchuk contract, KHL offer remains on the table

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for kovalchukhighfive.jpgThe 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.

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    ‘Like a 1988 Smythe Division game’ – Caps, Pens react to wild 8-7 game

    WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 16: Dmitry Orlov #9 of the Washington Capitals collides into Brian Dumoulin #8 of the Pittsburgh Penguins after scoring a goal during the second period at Verizon Center on November 16, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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    It’s no surprise that Justin Williams, a player who earned the clutch nickname of “Mr. Game 7,” provided the money quote for the Pittsburgh Penguins’ wild 8-7 overtime win against the Washington Capitals.

    “It snowballed too quickly for us,” Williams said, according to Caps’ website Dump n Chase. “All around, it was like a 1988 Smythe Division game out there, not something we want to do.”

    Penguins-turned-Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen also echoed one of the points from the game’s recap, stating that the contest had “four of five turning points.”

    You could probably spend hours pouring through all the oddball stats that sprouted up from this game.

    While Williams and Niskanen provided some of the better quotes, most of the players were reduced to using the same word that, frankly, most of us were rolling out.

    (Aside from those of us who were spouting expletives at perceived missed calls, particularly on the losing end.)

    In admitting that he couldn’t explain the second period, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan probably described the entire game most accurately:

    Either way, it was a lot of fun. Let’s do this in the playoffs, too, shall we?

    /scans online for a budget defibrillator.

    Video evidence that Mike Smith isn’t tanking

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    The Arizona Coyotes are really bad, but you could argue that Mike Smith is why the Colorado Avalanche owns the NHL’s worst record instead.

    He came into tonight’s eventual 3-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers with a sparkling .918 save percentage, and while he couldn’t save the Coyotes, he did rob of Jordan Eberle on what seemed like a sure goal.

    Watch that great save in the video above, and maybe wonder if Smith didn’t get the memo about the whole “tanking” thing.

    Penguins out-gun Capitals in absurd, controversial 8-7 OT thriller

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    Leave it to number 87 to win an 8-7 hockey game.

    Evgeni Malkin grabbed a hat trick during that patently absurd second period, yet it was Sidney Crosby who helped to create the overtime game-winner (credited to Conor Sheary) as the Pittsburgh Penguins edged the Washington Capitals on Monday night.

    No doubt about it, there was some controversy, including on that clinching goal. And not just because the tally survived the review process:

    MORE: Watch the full overtime here. Check this post out for additional information on that zany second period.

    Regardless, the Penguins’ three-game losing streak ends (as does Washington’s nine-game winning run). The Caps at least got a standings point out of the deal, which seems pretty fair when you consider the fact that they scored a touchdown and extra point’s worth of goals in this one.

    (Yes, there were NFL jokes on Twitter.)

    Malkin’s hat trick goal and Crosby’s fourth point both demanded official reviews, but both also stood. Capitals fans are probably upset with this game, especially since you could make a legitimate argument that T.J. Oshie should’ve drawn … you, know, at least one penalty:

    Instead, you could argue that Patric Hornqvist‘s hit on Oshie ended up being a turning point of the game in Pittsburgh’s favor, although you could also argue that even M. Night Shyamalan couldn’t keep up with all of the twists.

    Roberto Luongo captured the mood of the three goalies involved (Braden Holtby got the hook after allowing five goals over a zany 8:09 span) and likely the coaches, too:

    To recap, Malkin had that hat trick, Crosby scored a goal and three assists and Sheary generated a three-point night (two goals, one assist). Trevor Daley generated three assists while Justin Schultz did it one better with four.

    Oshie collected a goal and two assists, Lars Eller generated two big goals and Alex Ovechkin chipped in two helpers of his own.

    The goalie stats, were, well … (see that Luongo tweet).

    ***

    Overall, it was a messy, unpredictable, staggering and sometimes controversial game.

    Normally, one might say that this is just what you’d expect from a Capitals – Penguins contest. Can anyone really argue they expected this explosion, though?

    Do yourself a favor and watch the highlights, as there were so many exciting moments and goals that it’s difficult to summarize them all in one recap. Heck, if you just watch the highlights of the night for Crosby and Malkin, you’re likely to be highly entertained.

    If we’re treated to another contest between these teams in 2016-17, it will be in the playoffs. Plenty of hockey fans would love to see that, at least if their hearts can take it.

    Just about everything happened in second period of Capitals – Penguins

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    Update: The game only slightly slowed down after the second period, as the Penguins ultimately edged the Capitals 8-7 in overtime. Read all about it here.

    This post goes into greater detail about the second period, which is worthwhile … because it was a brain-full.

    ***

    Let’s just take a second to step back and rub our eyes in disbelief at this Washington Capitals – Pittsburgh Penguins game, particularly the just-passed second period.

    Basically everything is happening.

    Evgeni Malkin is now at 21 goals on the season as he generated a hat trick in the middle frame. That third goal will be highly – and understandably – contested thanks to possible goalie interference by Patric Hornqvist.

    At his best, Hornqvist is in the thick of things, and that was certainly the case on Monday. Granted, this hit on T.J. Oshie was questionable:

    Braden Holtby was chased from the Capitals net after the Penguins reeled off five goals in 8:09, which you can view here:

    The Capitals brought a 2-0 lead into the second period and fattened it to 3-0. After that, the Penguins built a 5-3 lead with the flurry from above.

    Brett Connolly made it 5-4 just 30 seconds after Malkin’s second goal, while Lars Eller tied it up at 5-5 about two minutes later.

    That tie lasted … less than 30 seconds, as Malkin’s third tally made it 6-5 for the Penguins.

    There’s a bunch of other stuff that happened, too, probably.

    /catches breath

    You can watch the rest of the game on NBCSN, online or via the NBC Sports App. Here’s the livestream link.