Now that Kovalchuk is a Devil, who might be on their way out of New Jersey?

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for langenbrunner.jpgIt 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.

Milbury, Jones: Tkachuk walked the walk; Kings’ response was embarrassing

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The Los Angeles Kings got revenge on Matthew Tkachuk and the Calgary Flames on the scoreboard on Wednesday. But was that 4-1 win enough?

Mike Milbury and Keith Jones provided a lengthy “overtime” segment on NBCSN that brought about some really fascinating takes on the situation between Tkachuk and the Flames versus Drew Doughty and the Los Angeles Kings.

Watch the full video above, as it’s worth your time.

A few interesting lines if you’re (tsk tsk) skipping it:

Milbury: Believes that Doughty didn’t “do enough,” noting that star players sometimes have to stick up for themselves. On the other hand, Tkachuk showed that he can “walk the walk.”

He also gave the Kings a “C-, D+ if not worse” for their overall response. “Fight your own battles,” Milbury said of Doughty.

Jones disagreed to some extent, believing that Kings teammates won’t look at Doughty differently. But Jake Muzzin? He believes that Muzzin’s frequent defensive partner (at least over the years, maybe not this season) backing down from a fight was an embarrassment.

Spicy stuff.

For what it’s worth, Drew Doughty has one career fight (against Joe Thornton [!] in 2011-2) while Jake Muzzin’s lone bout came against Andrew Desjardins in 2012-13, according to Hockey Fights. Does that mean they shouldn’t have dropped the gloves on Wednesday? Milbury and Jones seem to believe that they should have answered the bell.

For more, check out a collection of the early violent moments and Tkachuk’s attempted shot at Doughty. The Kings win is summarized in greater detail here.

Measure of revenge: Kings delay clinching efforts for Flames, Blues

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Deep down, the Los Angeles Kings probably realize that their season will end on game 82. Still, they kept their slim playoff hopes alive on Wednesday night … and managed to spite a team they’re growing to hate.

OK, maybe the hate is almost totally focused upon Matthew Tkachuk, yet the disdain for that talented-but-tormenting rookie was palpable.

It didn’t feel like the Kings exacted physical revenge on Tkachuk, but beating his team 4-1 ranked as classic scoreboard vengeance. With that, the Calgary Flames (and by extension the St. Louis Blues) will need to wait to clinch a playoff berth.

Now, as much as tonight was about Tkachuk, the focus was also on a pugnacious player who once dazzled for the Flames: Jarome Iginla.

In what might be Iginla’s final visit to Calgary – at least as an active NHL player – he was one of the best players on the ice. His fitting curtain call included a “Gordie Howe hat trick” with a spirited fight, an assist and a goal.

Seriously, that fight with Deryk Engelland:

That goal included a bit of luck, but hey …

Iginla was named the first star of the contest, and cameras captured his big smile in enjoying a special night. For all the nastiness of that game, it was refreshing to see such a heartwarming moment.

For more on the violence, check out this post on the early stuff and this one on Tkachuk’s missed missile launch on Drew Doughty.

Kings and Canucks will square off in first NHL exhibition games in China

graphic via NHL
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It’s official: the NHL will hold preseason games in China before next season.

The league made the announcement on Wednesday night: the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks will play two exhibitions: one on Sept. 21 (Shanghai) and Sept. 23 (Beijing). How cool is that?

“It is a privilege and an honor for the L.A. Kings to represent the National Hockey League in China as part of these two games against the Vancouver Canucks,” Kings president Luc Robitaille said. “Growing the game of hockey is something we take great pride in and it is a big priority for our hockey club and AEG as a whole. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our players and our staff, and we are looking forward to the games taking place in two tremendous facilities in two remarkable cities.”

The press conference inspired some jokes tonight.

Some of the best bits came in roping in … Kobe Bryant and David Beckham?

Alrighty then.

Click here for more details.

 

Video: Drew Doughty (mostly) avoids massive Matthew Tkachuk hit

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Hockey is such a fast sport that it’s probably not so easy to make someone your “target.” Instead, a big hit often comes down to the right combination of circumstance and timing.

Still, there’s no denying that Matthew Tkachuk is gunning for Drew Doughty (and the Kings are gunning for Tkachuk) on Wednesday.

Doughty isn’t oblivious to that notion, either, as you can see him avoid what looked like a pretty terrifying hit above.

We’ve already covered the early violence in this game, and it’s quite possible that there will be more carnage going forward. Stay tuned.