In what seems very unorthothodox to most people who have followed the New Jersey Devils, GM Lou Lamoriello has remained emphatic that the Devils are still “in the mix” to sign LW Ilya Kovalchuk to a free agent deal. While it seems more and more apparent to all that Kovalchuk likely wants to be a King, it still hasn’t happened two weeks after the free agency period began. Plus, it doesn’t seem very Lou-like to stand by and trying to convince a player to stay, when it appears that player would rather be elsewhere.
After all, when Paul Martin departed from the Devils on July 1, he indicated he thought Lou Lamoriello wanted Martin to make it clear he wanted to be a Devil. When that didn’t happen, Martin didn’t get the offer he expected from the Devils, and left for the Penguins, signing a 5-year $25 million contract.
So, while Kovalchuk obviously is one of the best talents in the league, the Devils have always worked under the premise that no one player is bigger then the team. So, by that theory, shouldn’t Lamoriello have moved on by now? What is the hold up? Is it interference from ownership, or is Lamoriello changing his spots a bit? Or does he think Kovalchuk is such a talent that it is worth making an exception for?
We may be at a point now where Kovalchuk is looking to save face a bit. Remember, this is a guy who turned down mega deals of 7 years, $70 million, or 12 years, $101 million with the Atlanta Thrashers during last season, and is now hard pressed to come close to those dollars. Without any reported offers outside of the Los Angeles Kings and New Jersey Devils, Kovalchuk has caused a bit of hysteria in the media world with his patience.
In fact, free agency as a whole around the league seems to have slowed down quite a bit, as the fallout from Kovalchuk signing has yet to take place, holding up potential deals with other free agents and/or trades between other teams. Players and teams in limbo include Simon Gagne, who reportedly could be Plan B for the Kings, which impacts the Philadelpha Flyers, not to mention whatever team(s) the Devils may trade with to open salary cap space if they were to sign Kovalchuk. The ripple is being felt around the league, so while it still seems the Kings are his eventual destination, you can never count out Lou Lamoriello and the Devils, even it looks bleak from the outside looking in.