I remember when the lockout ended, Kovalchuk was the last straggler back to North America. I remember early in the lockout when Kovalchuk said this:

"I don’t rule out staying in Russia in the case of a reduction of our salaries in the NHL." (Oct.23)

And when the lockout ended:

"I will need to read the new agreement' before he decides what to do next." (Jan.08)

And now there is news that Kovalchuk had already agreed to terms with SKA St. Petersburg in January. I'm just musing here, but I think Lou Lamoriello convinced Kovalchuk to play the shortened season - and then he would help Kovalchuk walk away from the NHL free and clear. I have a lot of respect for Lou as a businessman and I think he saw that there was no way to keep Kovalchuk in the NHL - so he did the best he could in getting one more year out of him. Then he gets Kovalchuk to 'retire', rather than suspend him, so that both sides are free and clear of each other. And this also avoids any KHL-NHL tension, which leads me to believe that Lamoriello at the very least consulted with Gary Bettman on how best to handle this to the satisfaction of all involved. It's what I would do.

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As for Kovalchuk's future in the NHL - the NY Post and Puck Daddy dug up this little tidbit. Kovalchuk becomes an unrestricted NHL free agent in 2018, once he turns 35 years old.

Do I think he will return? No. I think he'll go where he will make the most money. And while he walked away from $77 million in the NHL, he's reportedly making even more than that in the KHL. And that won't change five years from now.

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So is this the start of a trend of players leaving? What's to stop Ovechkin from doing it next year?

And could all 34-year-olds "retire" and then play one year in the KHL, and then return to the NHL as free agents? There's a loophole that could be trouble.

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I see a lot of questions on Twitter wondering why Mikhail Grabovski hasn't signed yet and even Drance chimed in on the matter yesterday. But while under normal circumstances I would be raising a Spockian eyebrow like the rest of them, I don't right now because these aren't normal circumstances. And I would bet that most of the questions come from people who haven't been married or it has been a long time since they were married. All I can remember about my wedding celebration was that for a week prior to the ceremony and about 10 days after it - I was a write-off. It was all a blur. Now, that doesn't mean that his agent can't do the work for him, but it probably means that his agent Gary Greenstin couldn't get started until last Monday (since he was no doubt at the wedding). Give Greenstin three days or so to collect offers and/or a list of interested teams…so now we're up to Thursday. Assume that Grabovski is on his honeymoon and that he heard from Greenstin on Thursday or Friday. Today, after returning from his honeymoon (I'm making the assumption that he went on a one-week honeymoon), I'm betting that Grabovski has narrowed the list down and that the agent is honing in on those remaining two or three teams. I wouldn't be shocked to hear him sign with one by Tuesday. And to me, that timeline is exactly as it should be.

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I like the Minnesota signing of Jonathon Blum. How a season and a half can completely wipe out the outlook of an elite prospect is beyond me, but man does it ever happen a lot in hockey. Player X is ranked a Top 10 prospect and 500 days later he's a free agent and signed as a fringe player. To me, that's too quick. But it has been my experience that when this happens to a player, he is too far behind the eight ball to bounce back. There are exceptions, of course, though I can't think of any. But when you see a Jonathon Blum or a Zach Boychuk or a Robbie Schremp get tested at the NHL level and then the club lets them go - they don't bounce back. Their new club/new coach usually gives them a good opportunity early on, but keeps them on a short leash. If they can't put up the numbers within five games, they're toast. Bench time. Then press box time. Then waivers time.

As much I as love a good underdog story and admit that there could be a 'buy low' opportunity in fantasy hockey here, I think the best bet is to drop them. Wait for them to prove themselves. Then use up a move.

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Friday I tweeted this:

Brunner to New Jersey

And over the weekend the big rumor was Brunner to New Jersey - Lou is definitely looking into adding the talented winger, who has a lot of upside. What Brunner needs is the faith of his coach - blind faith. The same blind faith that Kovalchuk got.

I mean, how good was Kovalchuk? He played 24:44 per game and got 31 points in 37 games. Next highest forward for ice time was Stamkos at 22:01 per game. And your typical superstar, say the 20th forward (Pavel Datsyuk) got 20:10 per game. Give Kovalchuk 20:10 per game instead of 24:44 and would he get 31 points? Nope. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and say 28. If you give Brunner 20 minutes per game and all the top opportunities and top linemates, would he get 28 points in 37 games? You bet your ass he would. He had 15:35 per game last season.

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The Coyotes have signed Max Domi to an ELC. I would be shocked if he made the team this year, but he'll be a good one and the wait won't be long for him, either.

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Thanks for the YouTube clips last week gang, I have compiled enough for this week and next! Keep them coming.

Here is a radio station interviewing Roberto Luongo, from last Monday:

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Hall of Famer Chris Chelios from 1989 Grapevine

 


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Comments (8)add comment

4horsemen said:

4horsemen
... Your Blum comments are spot on!!! Through the years I've come to the exact same conclusion
July 15, 2013
Votes: +0

bullwinkle said:

bullwinkle
I know which team needs Damien Brunner... the Buffalo Sabres! He is the kind of kid they are looking for to continue with the building Darcy has undertaken.
July 15, 2013
Votes: +0

ross10019 said:

ross10019
Belgarat's comment re Lou Belgarat, the same thing can never happen with Lou, because if he gives up that huge contract there's no way he'll get anything close to that from another team, whereas Kovy is probably making $60m over 4 years with SKA St Petersburg and it's largely tax-free. Best Luongo could get (my guess) would be $5M for say 3-4 years.

And even if it were possible the NHLPA would never let it happen, too much of a huge loophole to let teams get out from under bad contracts.
July 15, 2013
Votes: +0

The Comish said:

The Comish
Kovalchuk HHOF Peng,

If Kovalchuk has many productive years in the KHL, he should still be HHOF worthy. The first H stands for "Hockey", although it does seem to heavily weigh NHL production vice the rest of the hockey world. I guess the IIHF has those guys covered!

I wouldn't call Kovalchuk overrated and his defensive skills in my opinion were underrated a little. His grossly inflated salary led to higher expectations, but that money was buying an offensive scoring machine, not a complete two-way player. He had the misforture of playing a ton on minutes on some really bad teams. That's going to hurt your +/- regardless of who you are. Surely to God, he's not directly responsible for all of those minuses!

I would bet that his, ahem, defection to the KHL WILL hurt his chances for the HHOF, making what could have been a slam dunk selection to let's wait and see if there is anyone better to elect.
July 15, 2013
Votes: +0

Pengwin7 said:

Pengwin7
Musing on Kovalchuk I'd say you are right.
The Kovalchuk transition was very clean. I think all sides came to a very fair agreement.

As for Ovechkin, I don't think he'd bolt.
Ovechkin has a chance to win a Stanley Cup... to be a Hall-of-Famer. I've never rooted for the guy... but he's got a chance to go down as one of the 25 greatest NHL players if he plays out his career in the NHL. If he goes to Russian, he's "following in Kovalchuk's" footsteps. That starts to put him in the same TIER as Kovalchuk. Kovy still has more points than Ovechkin. I think Kovalchuk missed out on a chance at the Hockey Hall of Fame by leaving the NHL. If Ovechkin left in a year or two (without a Cup), I'm not sure he'd be HHOF-er either.

Oh, and one interesting note on Kovalchuk.
Many people know that I despise the guy because his lack of a two-way game makes him a highly overrated player (IMO).
His production was likely to drop under a point-per-game going forward with the depleted offensive talent on New Jersey.

So... he retires with 816pts in 816games. "Point-per-game" player... officially.
If he plays another season, that might be gone forever.
For a player that is offensively-driven as Ilya... I wonder if that factored (even a little bit) into his decision to "retire".

Great rambling & thoughts on Grabovski/Blum/Brunner as well! A++
July 15, 2013
Votes: +0

newper114 said:

newper114
Loophole/kovalchuk Its and interesting idea you bring up with the loophole but i just want to point out that the kovalchuk situation is slightly different. I dont know if it was his situation thats is different or if all retirement contracts work this way. For kovy to get back into the NHL 2 things need to happen:
1) he needs approval from every NHL team - thats the easy one.
2) he needs to not play a year of hockey in any league prior to NHL return.

The second one is key. One it means chances of him returning are slim. By can also stop the loophole bc if guys walk away at 34 and then not play a full season of hockey it will be alot harder to get back into the NHL as teams will be iffy with them having a year off at that age. Now again not sure if this only works for kovalchuk or any retired contract player.
July 15, 2013
Votes: +1

belgarat said:

belgarat
... An interesting thought the whole loophole idea. Wouldn't it be crazy if Luongo did the same thing to get out of his contract.
July 15, 2013
Votes: +0

Gaborlick said:

Gaborlick
Kovalchk Sad to see Kovalchuk go, a great player. Does he leave if the lockout never happens? I don't think he does.
July 15, 2013
Votes: +0
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