So Kovalchuk is here to stay and the numbers that surround his name are astounding. Obivously there will be changes made in order for the Devils to meet the NHL Salary Cap. Problem is, who goes? According to Capgeek.com, the following players have NTC/NMC in their contract: Elias, Rolston, Arnott, Langenbrunner, Volchenkov, White, Salvador, Brodur and Hedberg but I will get to this in a minute.
The unofficial numbers came in last night and they are 17 years at $102 million with a contract that is front loaded. If the unofficial numbers are right, Kovalchuk will receive 6 million per for the next 2 years and then get a nice raise after that. He'll make 11.5 million for 5 seasons, 10.5 the year after that and then watch the yearly number take a dive each season. Rumors were circulating yesterday that the contract is setup so that Kovalchuk doesn't have to play the entire 17, he could retire, get most of his money and the Devils wouldn't be on the hook for the contract once he retired BUT even talking about that scenario with a player isn't really allowed. The Devils aren't the first to do this with contracts, just look at Luongo's or Hossa's numbers. Kovalchuk contract includes a no-movement clause through June 30, 2017 and a no-trade clause begins on July 1, 2018. That gives NJ a one year window to move Kovalchuk should something not be going right. By the end of the seventh season when that trade window opens, the Devils will have paid Kovalchuk $69.5 million of the $102 million total.
More thoughts after the jump
Ok, so now on to the part of player movement. Right now, the Devils are somewhere in the neighborhood of 2 million dollars over the cap so someone has to move. Since I want AJ's input into this article, I asked him to put together his list taking the NTC's into account. This is his list which wasn't very different from mine:
1. Brian Rolston - Rolston has two seasons left on his deal, with the Devils on the hook for $5,062,500 per season. If Kovalchuk's contract is the minimum of $100 million, he'll cost the team nearly $6 million per season. Rolston clearly makes the case as the Devil who needs to be moved the most. His contract has been an albatross on this team, especially with his production declining. Between 2000 and 2008, Rolston's point total never dipped below 40. In two seasons with the Devils, he hasn't equalled that number. He hasn't fulfilled expectations on the powerplay either. His offensive skills never seemed to materialize and, for whatever reason, his shot hasn't been consistent.
But getting rid of Rolston is the bigger issue. He has a no-trade clause, which complicates where the team can trade him. Also, it's not a secret that Rolston is in decline. Other teams around the league will notice his dip in production and the big dollar number on his contract. While Lou has surprised us this offseason, it would be another magical move if Lamoriello could find a way to deal Rolston.
2. Dainius Zubrus - I've always thought that signing Zubrus was a mistake a first. He never put up huge point totals (career high - 60, with Washington and Buffalo in 2006-07), and I thought paying him $3.4 million was excessive. In hindsight, the contract is still expensive, but Zubrus has become a solid producer for the Devils. He's not a great center, but he's seemed to click with players such as Travis Zajac and Zach Parise. He'll be easier to move with his contract, but the Devils would sorely miss his physical style in their lineup. He also wouldn't bring much cap relief to the team. But Zubrus' contract can be moved, and it wouldn't surprise me to see him on the block.
3. Colin White - Moving White would relieve the Devils of another big contract ($3 million the next two years), but White is another difficult trade piece. Like Rolston, White is in decline. He's a big-body defenseman, but he's never been a shutdown player and he can't contribute offensively. We've seen his physical play decline with the eye injury he suffered earlier in his career. Another issue sits with the lack of depth on the blue line. The team's defense is thin, and losing another defender would mean placing an unproven rookie in the lineup. White also has a no-trade clause in his contract. While $3 million would be nice to free up, I would be shocked if White was traded.
Now, I have an advantage because I know how much the Devils need to dump where as AJ did not. With knowing the Devils are only paying Kovalchuk 6 million per for the next two, I will wipe Rolston's name right off the list. I agree that he is in decline and his contract is massive but he's got a canon of a shot which becomes useful in Power Play situations. He'll be a UFA by the time we have to pay Kovy the real money, so for me, Rolston's finishes out his contract. With Colin White, I look at him like I look at Rolston. He'll be gone before the real money gets paid and I guess he adds something. I'm not saying I wouldn't jump up and down if his spot was giving to a young player but he's tough to move with his hefty contract, his bad eye and his no-trade clause.
Danius Zubrus becomes the guy for me. Yes, Zubrus has size, something the Devils don't have much of but Arnott is a pretty decent sized guy and used it well the last time he was in a Devils uniform. Zubrus doesn't have a no-trade clause and is probably the easiest to move. I'm willing to bet that Buffalo would take him back. Shedding Zubrus contract allows us to replace him with a minimal contract and leave room in the bank in case we need money later for an injury.
NOw I went on about Kovalchuk and how bringing him here might be the wrong thing to do. I am still not 100% behind this move because of the 11.5 million hit we start taking in a few years. The 6 million for the first two is a great deal though. Parise is a must to remain with this team and I was afraid any deal might interefere with his future. I don't really believe it will. I think Lou will get that figured out but I do feel that Zajac will ultimately become victim to this deal and that bothers me.
As for the money we are paying Ilya, Kovalchuk had better own the Devils single season goal record. No excuses. In fact, I expect nothing less that 40 goal seasons EACH of the next five years. Kovalchuk is a talented player but you start throwing this kind of money on guys and things don't always go right. For instance, if Kovalchuk and the Devils get of to a slow start, then the media will immediately focus on Kovalchuk and his fit on this kind of team and I wonder how that affects him. I hope he can handle all that comes with this contract because its not just about the money. He has spent most of his career with a "pretender" and now he's coming to a "contender" and the New York Media. It's a whole different ballgame. I hope that peoples expectations are met. I expect a lot from Kovalchuk and I certainly hope he delivers. Now, who's going out and buying a Kovalchuk jersey?