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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Friday I tweeted this:
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.
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.
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:
Hall of Famer Chris Chelios from 1989 Grapevine