Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Kovalchuk Deal:

Still A Win For Devils

Since yesterday, I have read a half dozen articles that showcase the Kovalchuk ruling as a headache for the Devils.

Damien Cox did some wacky math in The Spin the other day:
But you could argue Kovalchuk will, when its all said and done, cost the Devils somewhere between $150 million and $200 million in salary, fines, prospects, draft picks and players
.

Today, Pat Hickey seems to echo the line that the deal is mostly negative for the Devils too.

AS usual, i feel some of the commentators have been swept along and are missing the main point. While it's true the deal has been costly this summer (a $3 million fine and a first and 3rd round draft pick), it still is hugely beneficial to the Devils.

First, we have to debunk the fact that the Devils somehow paid
with Niclas Bergfors, Johnny Oduya, Patrice Cormier and a first-round pick for Kovalchuk. That trade (and we're not forgetting Salmela) was made for the pleasure of dressing Kovalchuk in the 2010 close to the season, nothing more. Ilya was always going to be a UFA, and if anything that's why the cost was as low as it was.


The benefit of Kovalchuk

Really though, the true benefit of this deal comes from being able to dress Kovalchuk for this season and the next 14 at the relatively cut-rate price of $6.67 million a season.

That salary for a player like Kovalchuk is a bargain by league standards at the moment. Kovalchuk hasn't scored less than 40 goals a season since his 20th birthday and has been a point-per-gamer with no supporting cast for many years. Hi salary cap mark puts him currently at the 25th highest in the league (not bad for the best goalscorer of the decade) and behind players like Thomas Vanek, Patrick Marleau and Anze Kopitar (not to mention Scott Gomez).

Now here's the best part. If the league doesn't shrink and the salary cap grows (even only to keep up with inflation) Kovalchuk's cap number will likely look better year after year as players surpass him with new contracts.

And penalties aside, there is nothing the league has done or can do to circumvent the original intent that Kovalchuk would retire whenever he wanted to, presumably long before the age of 42.

So instead of tallying Patrice Cormier and a few draft picks, tally the fact the Devils just acquired the only available superstar in the NHL and signed him to a bargain deal for his current numbers. The numbers stand to look better over the years too as salaries and caps are pushed higher or Kovalchuk retires.

There's no guaranteeing a Cup with a move like this one, but let's not paint one of the most creative deals (maybe the last creative deal) as all negative. The Devils are a better team today than they were last year with Oduya and Bergfors and their three draft picks and that's what really matters.

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