Ilya Kovalchuk

Devils to keep ’13 first-rounder, forfeit ’14 pick


Hours prior to the first-ever NHL Draft Lottery — in which all participants have a shot at the No. 1 pick —  the Devils announced they’re keeping their first-rounder.

On Monday, New Jersey GM Lou Lamoriello confirmed the organization will participate in the opening round of 2013 NHL Entry Draft which, of course, will be held in Newark, N.J. on June 30.

That decision means the Devils’ 2014 first-round selection will be forfeited, as per a salary cap circumvention penalty for signing Ilya Kovalchuk.

The penalty was announced in Sept. 2010 ($3 million, 2011 third-round pick, future first-rounder) with the understanding it was up to the Devils to decide which year — ’11, ’12, ’13 or ’14 — they’d give up the 1st.

The club opted to hold onto its 2011 first-rounder (selecting Adam Larsson) and, curiously, also decided to keep their 2012 first-rounder — the 29th overall pick, with which they took Stefan Matteau.

Why curious? Consider this take from Yahoo!’s Neate Sager:

The franchise, which was stripped of a first-rounder after the NHL ruled it circumvented the salary cap while signing Ilya Kovalchuk, was widely questioned for even using its first-rounder in 2012.

What was the point of hanging on to second-last pick of the first round in a weak draft year, then rushing him to the NHL to perform in spot duty, disrupting a crucial development season?

Taking Matteau also painted the Devils into a corner where they likely going to have to give up their first-rounder in the fecund 2014 draft.

Missing out on a possible shot at an elite youngster such as the Barrie Colts’ Aaron Ekblad, Kootenay Ice’s Sam Reinhart or Kingston Frontenacs’ Roland McKeown is a hefty price to pay to take a player who seems to be struggling with some maturity issues.

The draft lottery will be held tonight (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN), and the Devils hold a 2.7 percent chance of capturing the first overall selection.

Florida (25 percent), Colorado (18.8) and Tampa Bay (14.2) hold the highest odds.

Discuss: Rangers avoid eighth seed in 4-0 win over Devils


The New York Rangers dominated Saturday’s match against the New Jersey Devils from start to finish and were rewarded with a comfortable 4-0 victory.

With this win, the Rangers have avoided a first round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins. They could finish as high as sixth place, but the Ottawa Senators can push them down to the seventh seed if they get three points in their final two contests.

Here are the talking points:

  • Rick Nash scored his 20th and 21st goals of the season this afternoon. He pretty much lived up to expectations in his first regular season with the Rangers, but how will he do in the playoffs? Nash has a goal and three points in four career postseason contests. He also has never won a playoff game.
  • The Rangers won 10 of their final 13 matches. Can they carry that momentum into the postseason?
  • New Jersey will finish the season with one of the worst records in the league when it comes to goals per game. They were without Ilya Kovalchuk for 11 contests, but the loss of Zach Parise to the Minnesota Wild was certainly felt.
  • Martin Brodeur will turn 41 in May and Johan Hedberg will celebrate his 40th birthday. They’re both signed through 2013-14, but can the Devils stay competitive with that tandem? It’s not just about how they’ll preform, it’s a question of if they can stay healthy over the course of an 82-game season.
  • Henrik Lundqvist ended up starting in 43 of the Rangers’ 48 games. That might end up being on par with Antti Niemi, but it’s more playing time than Sergei Bobrovsky, Corey Crawford, or Tuukka Rask will receive. Could that push Lundqvist over the edge in his quest for a second straight Vezina Trophy?
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Off of shoulder injury, Kovalchuk joins Team Russia

It looks like New Jersey Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk has no interest in resting after returning from a shoulder injury.

The 30-year-old superstar has already played in four games over six days since spending roughly a month on the sidelines. The Devils won’t make the postseason after collapsing during his absence, but Kovalchuk will keep busy by representing Team Russia in the 2013 IIHF World Championships.

“It’s always an honor when you get invited from your home country,” Kovalchuk told the Bergen Record. “That’s where I was born and raised and that’s where I get all my stuff from. They’re the reason I’m who I am right now, so when I go a chance I try to go back and try my best to play hardest for my home country and for our fans because we’ve always got great support there in Europe.

“Hockey is growing overall in Russia, especially before the Olympics in 2014. So, it will be great.”

Kovalchuk added that his Devils teammate, 22-year-old forward Andrei Loktionov, will also probably play for Team Russia.

“They talked to me about Lokti and I think they’re going to call him,” Kovalchuk explained. “I think he’s going to come too.”

Kovalchuk regards 2013 as probably the worst season of his career. Perhaps the tournament will be a morale boost for him.

Kovalchuk: 2013 was ‘probably my worst season’

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New Jersey Devils superstar Ilya Kovalchuk never won a single NHL playoff game until he was traded away from what was then the Atlanta Thrashers. Surely he endured some bad times in those days, but even so, the Russian star told the Bergen Record that 2013 represents rock bottom.

“I think overall with the injuries and everything this was probably my worst season of my career,” Kovalchuk said. “It’s not easy and now with a lot of guys going to be unrestricted free agents, I don’t know what’s going to happen next year. We just can wait and see.”

If nothing else, it might be the 30-year-old’s most turbulent campaign.

The season began with a mild amount of controversy as it seemed like there was an issue with him staying overseas to play in the KHL All-Star Game. While that blew over and Kovalchuk remained as vital as ever for New Jersey, the Devils really saw how essential he is when they only one won game during his 11-game absence due to a shoulder injury.

Sure, missing the playoffs after a surprise run to the 2012 Stanley Cup finals has to hurt, but sitting out games isn’t something the star winger is used to. Even during the worst of times in Atlanta, he’s never missed more than three games in a full season until 2013.

So, considering the uncertain future Kovalchuk discussed, maybe it’s good for morale to put together a few wins even if the season’s a lost cause.

PHT Morning Skate: Where James Sheppard’s a Masterton nominee

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Los Angeles Kings forward Dustin Brown largely declined to talk about his questionable elbow on Minnesota’s Jason Pominville. “I haven’t seen it,” Brown said. (LA Kings Insider)

The Winnipeg Jets need help if they’re going to make the playoffs. (Winnipeg Sun)

Jordan Staal’s first season with the Carolina Hurricanes hasn’t exactly been picture perfect. (The News & Observer)

The New Jersey Devils got a scare on Tuesday when Ilya Kovalchuk crashed into the end boards and hit his shoulder towards the end of the third period. It was very similar to the play that recently sidelined him for 11 games, but fortunately he appears to be fine this time around. “I hit with my other shoulder, so it’s good,” Kovalchuk explained. (Bergen Record)

James Sheppard, who has fought hard to get back to the NHL after his career was derailed in 2010 due to a knee injury, is the San Jose Sharks’ nominee for the Masterton Trophy. (CSN Bay Area)

Chris Stewart had a big night against Colorado. He scored his 100th goal and recorded his 100th career assist in St. Louis’ 3-1 victory. (

Defenseman Dion Phaneuf has been a polarizing figure, but the team captain has played a role in the Maple Leafs finally making the playoffs. (Toronto Sun)

Without any chance of advancing to the postseason, the New Jersey Devils just want to head into the summer on a winning streak. (The Star-Ledger)

Highlights from Philadelphia’s 5-2 victory over Boston:

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