2010 NHL free agency: Devils sign Ilya Kovalchuk (For real this time)

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for kovalchukpresser3.jpgAfter a night and early morning of pushing back deadlines, we can now say it’s official. Ilya Kovalchuk is once again a member of the New Jersey Devils. Kovalchuk’s 15-year, $100 million contract was registered and approved by the NHL. Meanwhile, the NHL and NHLPA came together on an agreement to amend the collective bargaining agreement to allow Kovalchuk’s contract to be approved, and in effect grandfathering in the contracts of Roberto Luongo, Chris Pronger, Marian Hossa and Marc Savard. Both the NHL and NHLPA speak out on their part in the agreement.

“We’re pleased to be able to establish clearly-defined rules for these types of contracts going forward and just as happy we can turn the page on uncertainties relating to several other existing contracts,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said. “From start to finish of this multi-week process we were able to work closely and cooperatively with representatives of the Players’ Association, who shared our belief that the creation of definitive rules and guidelines in this area would be beneficial to everyone – Clubs and players alike.”

“We are pleased to finalize an agreement which ends the League’s circumvention investigations and also establishes rules on long-term contracts that will provide players, their certified agents and general managers clarity for the negotiation of new contracts,” said Roland Lee, Director of Salary Cap/Marketplace & Associate Counsel for the NHLPA. “Turning the page on this process is something that will benefit all parties involved.”

As for the details of their agreement, we laid them out for here in detail last night and encourage you to check out that  post to get the full explanation on how things break down. To sum it up as best as we can in a few words, if you’re going to go long-term on a contract from now on, you better be absolutely sure you want to have that player if the deal goes past their 35th birthday if you want to get creative with money. If you want the contract to go beyond their 41st birthday, you’re paying up for the value of that contract in the final years no matter what at whatever amount is thrown down.

This tenuous peace between the NHL and NHLPA could be a signal that times will be extra difficult in 2012 when the collective bargaining agreement ends, or it could be a sign that both sides are willing to work amiably and deep into the night to get something they each want to see taken care of, finished. Either way, it’s a landmark moment and one that people will be pointing to in a couple years.

As for the actual hockey side of the details here, Kovalchuk’s signing in New Jersey means that some roster moves are going to accompany them in New Jersey. Kovalchuk’s deal puts the Devils about $3.1 million over the salary cap. Candidates that could be moved include the likes of Dainius Zubrus, Bryce Salvador, and Brian Rolston. If you’re thinking Jamie Langenbrunner or Travis Zajac will get moved, you might be delusional. Patrick Elias is also a name of some intrigue as well, but given his legacy in New Jersey it doesn’t seem at all likely.

For the Devils, lineup-wise, this makes them a very dangerous and talented offensive team. With John MacLean now at the helm and the Devils promising a more offensive style of game (we’ll wait and see on that) there’s potential for New Jersey to be one of the most exciting teams to watch in the NHL now. Having Kovalchuk surrounded by Zach Parise, Elias, Zajac, and Jason Arnott the potential is sky-high. Whether or not the Devils loosen things up a bit with Jacques Lemaire now gone remains to be seen, but hope is there and very much alive. This Devils team is going to be a handful and a half to deal with this season for opponents.

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    Tavares says ‘no rush’ to sign extension with Isles

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    John Tavares keeps saying all the right things about his future with the New York Islanders.

    But that doesn’t change the fact he still doesn’t have a contract extension in place.

    Tavares, who can become an unrestricted free agent next summer, spoke with Newsday yesterday, telling the newspaper he was in “no rush” to sign and that he’s comfortable to just “let the process run its course, keep the lines of communication open, keep it all internal.”

    It’s been reported that the Isles’ uncertain arena situation could be complicating matters. It’s still not clear where the team will call home for the long term.

    On that topic, Tavares chose to avoid making any definitive statements.

    “The possibility with Belmont and that RFP coming out, there’s great potential there,” the 26-year-old said. “We’ll see where it goes. A lot of those things are out of my hands. Some things I don’t try to worry about them too, too much. I’m just a hockey player. I try to be as best prepared as I can be. It’s a big decision obviously because it’s eight years of my career, really entering into my prime years and a great opportunity for myself to achieve what I set out to achieve when I was a kid, making it to the NHL, wanting to win a Stanley Cup and wanting to do that with the Islanders.”

    There’s more in the interview, including his thoughts on the Isles’ offseason moves. Click here to give it a read.

    Tavares also spoke with Newday about the thumb surgery he had in April. All’s well on that front, according to the captain.  

    “I felt I didn’t want this reoccurring and the recovery time was only six weeks,” he said, “so it was the right thing to do once the season ended.”

    Related: Tavares open to signing contract extension this summer

    Under Pressure: Derrick Pouliot (again)

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    This post is part of Penguins Day on PHT…

    For the second straight year, Derrick Pouliot is our pick for the Pittsburgh player under the most pressure heading into the season.

    Perhaps we should just focus on someone else, but the Penguins gave the 23-year-old defenseman a one-year contract extension in July. The eighth overall pick in the 2012 draft, Pouliot knows time is running short to prove Pittsburgh didn’t make a big mistake.

    It should be compelling to watch how he fares.

    “I’ve got to make an impact right away and show that I belong in the NHL,” he said, per the Post-Gazette. “It’s been three years now. I haven’t fully established myself yet. I want to take it one step at a time and build as the year goes on.”

    Pouliot felt he had a strong finish to his AHL season, and perhaps that will help his confidence heading into camp.

    But it’s worth noting that he’s no longer exempt from waivers. So unless he earns a spot, that could mean a change of scenery, with the Penguins either losing him for nothing or trading him for pennies on the dollar.

    Pouliot could feasibly crack the opening roster as Pittsburgh’s eighth defenseman, behind Kris Letang, Justin Schultz, Brian Dumoulin, Olli Maatta, Ian Cole, Chad Ruhwedel and new addition Matt Hunwick.

    He could then languish on that roster until an injury gives him a chance to play.

    The first step, though, is coming into camp and building off the back half of last season.

    “For me to establish myself as an NHL defenseman, a regular guy in the lineup, it’s kind of playing how I ended the season: solid defensively, consistent in that regard,” Pouliot said, per the Tribune-Review. “That’s been one thing that’s always been brought up about me, inconsistency. So I think it’s starting with that and building each game.”

    Looking to make the leap: Zach Aston-Reese

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    This post is part of Penguins Day on PHT…

    With a number of departures from a roster that won back-to-back Stanley Cups, it’s imperative that the Pittsburgh Penguins get a push from some of their prospects in 2017-18.

    One of the top candidates to earn a regular spot is forward Zach Aston-Reese, a 23-year-old who just wrapped up an impressive career at Northeastern University.

    Aston-Reese signed with the Pens in March, hoping to follow in the footsteps of fellow undrafted NCAA products Chris Kunitz and Conor Sheary.

    In a twist, Kunitz is one of those departed players that Aston-Reese may help replace.

    “He was a college free agent, too, and kind of a goal scorer his last couple years in college,” Aston-Reese said of Kunitz, per NHL.com. “Just made a career for himself playing with good guys and being able to put the puck in the back of the net.”

    Aston-Reese scored 31 goals in 38 games for the Huskies last season, making him a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award.

    But despite all the accolades, he knows he’s still just a prospect, with a lot left to learn, and a lot left to prove.

    “Whether we start up top or down in Wilkes-Barre, I think it’s important to be in the same mindset that, you’re trying to get better every day you show up to the rink,” he said, per the Post-Gazette. “If we do get that opportunity, we need to have a good mindset, produce and do what they ask of us.”

    Poll: Who will the Penguins miss the most?

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    This post is part of Penguins Day on PHT…

    After winning back-to-back Stanley Cups, the Pittsburgh Penguins have been forced into making some changes to their roster.

    It’s only normal that championship teams won’t be able to bring all their players back, especially in a salary cap world.

    This offseason, the Penguins lost Marc-Andre Fleury in the expansion draft and Chris Kunitz, Nick Bonino, Trevor Daley, Ron Hainsey, and Matt Cullen in free agency. Each one of those players played an important role in at least one of the two title runs.

    Fleury may not have been between the pipes when the Penguins hoisted the Stanley Cup in each of the last two seasons, but he played a crucial part in each victory. On top of playing 38 games during the regular season, he also compiled a 9-6 record with a 2.56 goals-against-average and a .924 save percentage during the 2017 postseason.

    Without Fleury on the roster, the pressure will fall squarely on Matt Murray‘s shoulders. Murray may own two rings, but he has yet to go through the challenges of an 82-game season plus playoffs. New backup Antti Niemi probably won’t be capable of filling in as well as Fleury did.

    One of the major reasons the Pens were able to go on two championship runs was because of the depth they had accumulated at center. Any team would love to have one of Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, but Pittsburgh is fortunate enough to have both. The Penguins’ depth didn’t stop there. They also had Nick Bonino on their third line and Matt Cullen on their fourth, which is pretty impressive.

    Both Bonino and Cullen will play in the Western Conference next year. Finding competent players to play on the third and fourth line isn’t as difficult as getting top line talent, but those two losses will probably hurt them pretty badly.

    Bonino had 18 goals and 37 points during the 2016-17 regular season and he added a modest seven points in 21 games during the postseason before being ruled out with a lower-body injury. Last year, he put up less points in the regular season (29), but he had an impressive 18 points in 24 games during the playoffs. He was also capable of playing a solid two-way game.

    Cullen, who signed with Minnesota yesterday, also found a way to contribute, despite playing a bottom-six role on such a deep team. The 40-year-old scored 32 and 31 points in his two years with the Penguins and he also added six and nine points during the playoff runs. He also won plenty of key faceoffs and played well without the puck.

    Trevor Daley was unable to finish the 2016 playoffs because of an ankle injury, but he also played a vital role during Pittsburgh’s impressive accomplishment. Daley, who is now with the Red Wings, was able to hold down the fort while Kris Letang was out. He averaged over 20 minutes of ice time during the regular season and 19 more in the spring.

    Ron Hainsey was a smart, underrated trade deadline acquisition by GM Jim Rutherford. The veteran stepped into the lineup and played 21 minutes per night for his new team. He also chipped in with eight points in 25 games. He got himself a nice contract with the Maple Leafs on July 1st.

    Chris Kunitz had been a big contributor for the team, but his production fell off dramatically. After scoring 35 goals during the 2013-14 season, he added 17, 17 and nine during his last three years in Pittsburgh. It became pretty clear that he wasn’t able to play at the same level he had been in previous years, so it wasn’t surprising to see him go elsewhere (Tampa Bay) when free agency opened.

    It’s your turn to vote. Make sure you make a selection in the poll below and feel free to leave your opinion in the comments section.