It took two months and two days – and it felt like two years – but Ilya Kovalchuk finally got his way. The Russian winger saw the nine figures he wanted, receiving a 15-year, $100 million contract that will cost the New Jersey Devils a satanic annual salary cap hit of $6.66* million.
* – Actually, it technically rounds up to $6.67 if you only go with two decimal points, but let’s not allow technicalities ruin an amusing coincidence, OK?
While Kovalchuk and his agent Jay Grossman are out of the woods after a harrowing summer, the Devils now open a whole new can of worms. Factoring in CapGeek.com’s salary numbers, Kovalchuk’s cap hit will put New Jersey over the ceiling by about $3 million with only 21 of 23 roster spots accounted for. The question is: who is on the chopping block now?
Considering how disgruntled he was late last season and his $2.8 million cap hit, captain Jamie Langenbrunner is one of the go-to guys among rumor mongers. The versatile forward feels confident that the team would have discussed waiving his no-trade clause if they wanted to trade him. Here is more from Craig Custance of the Sporting News.
Langenbrunner said he hasn’t been asked to waive his no-trade clause, so at this point he expects to be on the team moving forward.
“I would imagine if I were the guy, I would have been at least approached about it earlier,” Langenbrunner told Sporting News. “But in saying that, you still understand that it is somebody. Obviously, it’s somebody who has been on the team for awhile.”
Obviously, someone needs to go. Teams are unlikely to bite on Brian Rolston’s hysterically bad contract ($5.06 million per year until 2011-12) and the Devils probably wouldn’t part with valuable forward Travis Zajac ($3.89 million through 2012-13). While it’s always possible to move a recently acquired player, the chances of the team moving Jason Arnott, Henrik Tallinder or Anton Volchenkov are fairly low.
So the list of the most reasonable trade/AHL demotion candidates probably comes down to Langenbrunner, Dainus Zubrus, Colin White and Bryce Salvador. It could be just one of them or a combination of two or more.
Then again, you never really know with “Loophole” Lou Lamoriello. He knows every trick in the book. While this saga probably wore him down a bit, I imagine he has Plans B-Z lined up as this situation resolved itself.
We can ask if Kovalchuk’s really worth the headaches, but he’s a lifer now in New Jersey. It just comes down to two questions: who’s on their way out and how in the world are they going to re-sign Zach Parise next summer? I guess we’ll see just how smart Lamoriello really is by then.