The big news this week was the sudden retirement of Ilya Kovalchuk. It could have caught a few people off guard, but the move shouldn’t have been all that surprising for a couple of reasons. There have been plenty of rumours over the years that Kovalchuk has wanted to return to his home of Russia with his family. Not to mention the New Jersey Devils get out from under that massive contract and saved themselves $77M. Everyone seems to feel bad for the Devils, but they were trending towards a rebuild anyway after losing Zach Parise and David Clarkson, so something tells me Lou Lamoriello isn’t going to be losing any sleep over the loss of Kovalchuk due to all the money he is saving.

 

The downside though is the timing of the whole thing. If the team had known before free agency they could have spent some of that cash on free agents or attempted to re-sign Clarkson if they wanted. Even if this happened a year ago they could have made a stronger pitch to keep Parise. Losing Kovalchuk, Clarkson, and Parise represents a huge chunk of the team’s scoring and that’s going to be difficult to replace with any UFA’s still out there.  

 

Now that Kovalchuk is heading to the KHL for a reported $15M per season, could other players start to follow suit? NHLers have left for the KHL before, but not someone as talented as Kovalchuk at just 30 years of age. The Russian winger has already accumulated 417 goals and 816 points, and was well on his way to putting up some huge career numbers if he stayed healthy. In fact, no player has scored more regular-season goals than Kovalchuk since he entered the league and only three (Joe Thornton, Martin St. Louis, and Jarome Iginla) have posted more points during that span.

 

It’s easy to forget that not every hockey player grew up dreaming of playing in the NHL and many are content simply making a nice living in their homes in Europe. Most teams in the KHL can’t spend $15M per season on a player, but if the salaries become more comparable we could see other NHLers looking at it as an attractive option.

 

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Tuukka Rask parlayed his strong campaign into a new eight-year $56M contract. It’s certainly a risk for the Bruins to invest that much in goalie when very few netminders have been able to sustain success for that length of time over the past two decades. The recent trend has seen goaltenders like Tim Thomas, Mike Smith, Antti Niemi, and Sergei Bobrovsky emerge from obscurity and produce similar if not better results than the league’s so called elite players at the position. I’m not saying Rask isn’t one of the best in the world right now, but will he still be that way in three years?

 

The Bruins must have been in the mood to dish out money this week as they also inked Patrice Bergeron to an eight-year $52M extension yesterday. Not only is Bergeron one of the most complete players in the game today, but he’s about as tough as they come too. After the Stanley Cup Final concluded he probably looked like that guy from the board game Operation.

 

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Sticking with the theme of contracts, although on a much smaller scale, Joe Colborne got a one-way deal this week from the Toronto Maple Leafs. It might appear questionable to give a player that type of contract who has only played in 16 career NHL games, but keep in mind the Leafs lost Mikhail Grabovski, Leo Komarov, and Clarke MacArthur in the off-season. Colborne did well in the playoffs against the Boston Bruins when called upon and he likely fits in as a winger this season in the Leafs’ bottom six. General Manager Dave Nonis could have been swayed to signing off on the deal by looking at Yahoo’s depth chart of his team. Seeing Colton Orr as the second line right winger is enough to scare anyone straight.

 

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I’m a fan of the Karl Alzner contract as well. The four-year deal worth $11.2M is very cap friendly as Angus mentioned yesterday, and has renewed my faith after the wild frenzy last Friday that it is still possible to ink a player at a reasonable price. Alzner has 356 blocked shots over the last three seasons.

 

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You may or may not know from some of my commentary on the Ramblings that I am not a fan of multiple outdoor games. I’m all for the regular Winter Classic on the New Year’s Day, but with six now scheduled for next season they will quickly lose their luster. Not only that, but the latest game is in Vancouver between the Canucks and Senators at BC Place in March. Nothing screams outdoor hockey like a retractable roof and playing the game in a month where the average temperature is 11 degrees Celsius.

 

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I can’t say I don’t agree with the inductees for the Hall of Fame this year, but I wanted to expand on some of Dobber’s thoughts from earlier in the week. The debate about who should get in always seems to revolve around longevity versus dominance. Should players like Pavel Bure, Eric Lindros, and Peter Forsberg get the nod over let’s say someone like Daniel Alfredsson? The aforementioned skaters were all arguably the best on the planet for a few years, as opposed to Alfredsson who accumulated some solid totals because he was an above average player who had a lengthy career. Alfredsson is obviously still playing and I’m not picking on him, but his name came to mind because he’s a good contrast to the other three and will likely get plenty of consideration when he finally does retire.

 

Personally, I like the National Football League’s Hall of Fame the best out of the four major pro sports. The NHL seems too easy to get into and it’s hard to deny some players entry based on others who are already in. Major League Baseball on the other hand is too difficult in my opinion. The fact that someone like Tim Raines can’t get in is unreal.

 

The NHL needs to shoot for a happy medium, but with the precedent they have set in recent years it’s going to be challenging to change the process.

 

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I’m intrigued to see how the new Conference alignment next year will play out, especially in the East. For years the West seemed to produce much more competitive playoff races, but that could change in 2013-14. It’s hard to find a team in the East you can really write off for next season when you look at the new divisions. Granted, Florida doesn’t appear to be in great shape right now, and perhaps New Jersey and Buffalo could have difficulties, but other than that everyone could have a legitimate shot at the playoffs. Columbus seems to be a team on the rise and Detroit is always a threat, so those two additions should make things a lot more challenging for everyone involved.

 

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A couple more minor signings yesterday with Erik Condra agreeing to a two-year $2.5M deal with the Sens and Jake Muzzin getting a new two-year $2M deal from the Kings. Muzzin had a solid season in 2013 and should see his minutes go up significantly with the departure of Rob Scuderi. 

 

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In honour of the upcoming 20th anniversary of NHL 94:

 


Check out this crazy comeback 

 

 

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Nazem Kadri says he isn’t concerned about contract talks right now. That makes one of us.

 

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Jaromir Jagr reportedly has interest in joining the Carolina Hurricanes. Possibly because he is trying to catch Mike Sillinger in the “most teams played for” department.

 

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The Kings are unlikely to re-sign Dustin Penner because of cap issues. Too bad because I hear the pancakes are great there.  

 

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Good news for Blackhawks fans as Marian Hossa won’t need back surgery.

 

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Dominic Moore talks to ESPN about returning to hockey after the passing of his wife.

 

 

Feel free to follow me on Twitter at @amato_mike


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Comments (4)add comment

Dakkster said:

Dakkster
... The downside of Lou Lamoriello's fuckup is that he will now have no first round pick in a year where it's likely that New Jersey would have had a pretty high pick.
July 13, 2013
Votes: +0

number54 said:

number54
Montreal has Great Flap-Jacks I've posted this at least once before, but it's worth repeating. Habs' LW is barren, and their team generally lacks players with size who drive the net. I think Penner's an ideal candidate for that role who, given his numbers in LA the past few years, will not cost a pretty penny. I'd much rather see him in that slot than Travis Moen, and I don't want to see Rene Bourque on the LW again, ever -- he was that bad the last time they tried that.
July 13, 2013
Votes: +0

Michael Amato said:

Michael Amato
... It's a two-way deal and I think he's going to be in tough to crack the lineup regularly. A lot of good prospects on D right now.
July 13, 2013
Votes: +0

thinice said:

thinice
BLum? No commentary on Dobber hockey about Blum signing with Minneapolis?
July 13, 2013
Votes: +0
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