Most reports indicate that the New Jersey Devils and Los Angeles Kings are in a two-horse race for Ilya Kovalchuk (well, I guess it might be a three team contest if you count the KHL, in general).
The problem is, players like Kovalchuk take a lot of pieces of the salary cap pie. Tom Gulitti of Fire & Ice points out that signing Kovalchuk could impact the Devils’ ability to retain their other high-end forward, Zach Parise.
“I’m not thinking about that too much,” he told me today. “Right now, it’s more to the point of what’s going to help us win next year and the year after. A guy like (Kovalchuk) will help us. I guess we’ll see what happens after that.”
Thinking about the Devils’ chances of winning, Parise would be happy if Kovlachuk decides to re-sign.
“He’s someone that can help us,” Parise said. “He scores 40 a year. I don’t care who you are. Any guy that scored 40 goals a year and 85-90 points, that’s a good player anywhere. So, if we’re able to get him to come back, that will be good for us.”
Still, re-signing Kovalchuk will take a chunk of money. Fitting in both Kovalchuk and Parise on long-term deals will take some cap creativity from the Devils.
So, Kovalchuk’s contract – if he re-signs-could have a direct impact on Parise’s future as a Devil – and how long it might last.
Right now, the Devils have about $4.2 million in cap space committed to 19 players. They’d obviously have to make a move or two to clear up room for him, even if he doesn’t get the huge $10 million annual salary he wants.
But would the Devils be able to afford Parise and Kovalchuk going forward? Right now, Parise is in the last year of his super-bargain $3.1 million per year cap hit, a deal I’d say is the best contract outside of CBA-mandated entry-level deals. He’ll be a restricted free agent next summer.
New Jersey has 12 players under contract next year, with about $17.58 million to lock up 10-11 players. Kovalchuk and Parise’s raise ($3.1 million + ?) would take a considerable chunk of that remainder.
Would that be doable? Technically, if the Devils could move people around to sign Kovalchuk this summer, they could probably make it fit. But the question is whether or not they’d have enough cash to put a decent supporting cast around them. Jamie Langenbrunner and Andy Greene’s contracts are up that same summer and you could assume both of them would ask for money, too.
If you ask me, I’d much rather keep Parise than Kovalchuk. Even if the Devils can keep both, will they be able to win in the future with a threadbare group around them? I have my doubts, but we’ll take a closer look if we see specific details. No doubt about it, though, adding Kovalchuk would make the currently cheap Parise very hard to keep.