It turns out the Ilya Kovalchuk situation just grows stranger and more frustrating for he and the New Jersey Devils. We told you the other day that Kovalchuk, his agent Jay Grossman, Devils GM Lou Lamoriello and Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek were at the NHL offices in Manhattan leading to speculation that a new contract would be imminent. As it turns out, a new contract was drawn up but the NHL apparently has shot it down. The New York Post’s Mark Everson has the details.
The Devils’ hopes to sign Ilya Kovalchuk have been confounded again, denied encouragement from the NHL on their second try at a contract, The Post has learned.
Now, the NHL is risking being the culprit if one of its most talented players leaves for Russia, as time becomes a factor in Kovalchuk’s decision where to play.
The stakes are simple and huge as the Devils and Kovalchuk resume trying to satisfy themselves and the league. That task became even more difficult yesterday as the NHL continued its hard line by criticizing the framework of a deal the Devils and Kovalchuk’s camp optimistically presented for comment Monday.
This was a fear I had after the first Kovalchuk contract was denied by the league and arbitrator Richard Bloch upheld the NHL’s decision. The fear being that now that the league got their way they’d find a way to keep the most desirable free agent the league has seen in the cap era from blowing the lid off of how a superstar player gets paid in such a restrictive time. Now, while the league snoops around at other players’ contracts, it’s up to Lamoriello, Kovalchuk and Grossman to feel their way around blindly without much guidance from the league to find a deal that works.
While the possibility of Kovalchuk bolting to Russia is slim and virtually non-existent, it’s a threat nonetheless, especially if Kovalchuk grows weary of being jerked around by the NHL. Instead, there’s an invisible line in the sand between what’s questionable (contracts like those of what Marian Hossa and Marc Savard have) and what’s OK (Vincent Lecavalier’s deal). The differences between some of those deals are slim which makes the process that Kovalchuk and the NHL are going through that much more frustrating. It will be fascinating to see how this finally all plays out.
Another bold move by GM Marc Bergevin, another statement from Montreal Canadiens president/CEO Geoff Molson.
However Molson actually feels about the franchise’s decision to let Andrei Markov leave for the KHL, he provided quite the goodbye letter regarding the 38-year-old defenseman. One can’t help but wonder how Molson feels about Montreal’s overall makeover, whether you believe Mark Streit is really “replacing” Markov or not.
Anyway, that will need to wait. In the meantime, here’s the very kind statement from Molson to Markov:
“On behalf of the entire organization, I would like to thank Andrei for his great contributions during his 16 seasons as a proud member of the Montreal Canadiens. Arguably one of the best defensemen in franchise history, Andrei was a model of dedication to the great game of hockey. A respected figure around the league and among his teammates, Andrei demonstrated leadership both on and off the ice. Andrei’s commitment to our franchise was second to none, proven by his overcoming three serious and potentially career-ending injuries. I would like to wish Andrei the best of luck in the next step of his career, and happiness with his family.”
Speaking of Canadiens all-timers, Larry Robinson had plenty of nice things to say about Markov, too.
Markov, Habs officially part ways.
Markov is headed to the KHL.
The Buffalo Sabres might have signed Evan Rodrigues back in 2015 in part because he enjoyed so much success as a college linemate with Jack Eichel at Boston University, but the undrafted forward seems like he’s making a case that he’ll be a part of their future in his own right.
The Sabres handed Rodrigues a two-year deal that is two-way in 2017-18 and one-way in 2018-19. Whenever he’s at the NHL level, it’s worth $650K per season.
Rodrigues debuted in 2015-16, scoring a goal and an assist in two games. He managed to play in 30 regular-season contests for the Sabres last season, collecting six points.
He’s shown quite a bit of improvement at the AHL level, in particular. After collecting 30 points in 72 games for the Rochester Americans in 2015-16, he scored 30 again in 2016-17, although he only needed 48 contests to do so. Rodrigues isn’t quite Matt Moulson to Eihel’s John Tavares just yet, but it’s possible that he might at least development into a regular NHL player.
Buffalo’s work isn’t done for the summer just yet, as RFAs Zemgus Girgensons and Nathan Beaulieu still need deals.
Andrei Markov wanted to play his entire career with the Montreal Canadiens. With that option officially off the table, Markov announced that he’s headed for Russia and the KHL.
“I didn’t see myself with any other NHL team,” Markov said during a conference call wrapping up his lengthy stay with the Habs. “I didn’t see myself wearing another jersey.”
(At least not the jersey of another NHL team.)
The 38-year-old also noted that he hasn’t closed the door to a return to Montreal. That makes sense since it seems like it was largely the Canadiens’ decision to part ways with Markov, essentially replacing him with Mark Streit at a heavily discounted rate.
Beyond the comforts of home, Markov was almost certainly motivated to play in the KHL because of the 2018 Winter Olympics.
The veteran blueliner did not mention which KHL team he’ll end up playing for. There were some rumblings that Markov might sign with the Florida Panthers, but that turned out to not be true.
If it’s a one-year deal, a return to the Habs is at least feasible in 2018-19. Considering his age, it sure seems like this is the end of Markov’s lengthy run with the Canadiens, though.
One of the Isles’ feel-good stories from last season wrote a new chapter on Thursday.
Connor Jones, the undrafted 26-year-old that made his NHL debut in April, has signed a one-year, two-way extension, the club announced.
Jones certainly earned his way to the show. He spent four years at Quinnipiac before catching on with the Oilers, spending time with both their AHL and ECHL affiliates before jumping to the Isles organization in 2015.
Though he’s not an offensive producer — just 19 points in 58 games with Bridgeport last season — Jones emerged as a good energy guy that proved an effective penalty killer.
With AHL Bridgeport, he also played alongside his twin brother, Kellen, who was in attendance as Connor made his NHL debut in April.
Connor would go on to play four games for the Isles, averaging just under 12 minutes per night.