Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Kovalchuck Signed By The Devils for 17 Years; Simon Gagne Traded - Does This Signal The End of the Free Agent "Lockdown"?

Well finally some real hockey news. As had been noted around the blogsphere there's been very little UFA signing activity since July 7th. Now after 2 long weeks, the biggest UFA of 2010 has made a decision - Ilya Kovalchuk signed with the New Jersey Devils yesterday - the deal - it's a "WOW" sort of thing. Kovalchuck's contract is a reported 17 year deal for a total of $102,000,000. That's an average Salary Cap hit of $6M for 17 years; the deal will keep the 27 year old left wing/sniper in a Devils uniform until he's 44 years old. It's been a very active off season for the Devils, aside from loosing UFA defenseman Paul Martin to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Devils named John MacLean head coach, replacing the retiring Jacques Lemaire, they signed UFA defensemen Henrik Tallinder and Anton Volchenckov, as well as veteran Center Jason Arnott, and backup goaltender Johan Hedberg. Besides landing the most notable UFA signing this off season, all the other off season activity ensures a lot of people will be watching the Devils and expecting a lot from them this upcoming season.

Elsewhere another veteran forward whose name was being bandied about as possibly heading to the LA Kings was moved in a different direction as well yesterday. Philadelphia Flyers veteran Left Wing Simon Gagne waived his no trade clause to go to Tampa Bay and join Vincent Lecavalier, Steven Stamkos, Martin St.Louis, Ryan Malone, Steve Downie, Pavel Kubina, Brett Clark, Victor Hedman, and Antero Nittymaki on a team that is likely to be a sleeper that will be looking to, and capable of, surprising other Eastern Conference teams this upcoming season. Tampa Bay, the new and improved Tampa Bay under new owner Jeffery Vinick and new GM Steve Yzerman are very likely to be the most improved team in the NHL next season. They certainly have the possibility of being so. That's good news for the NHL and believe it or not, it's possibly good news for Southeast Division foes such as our own Washington Capitals. It likely means that the Southeast Division in general will be more competitive than it has been in some time. In addition to the moves made by Tampa Bay, Carolina still has a fair amount of salary cap space will should start to get active in filling out their roster with some sorter term, reasonably priced talent from the UFA market that will help them be competitive this season. Atlanta needs to pick up some talent as well as some salary in order to meet the league minimum payroll so you know they will be making some more signings, and Florida has some Cap Space that will enable them to pick up some talent for their few open roster slots. All in all there's no salary cap driven reason why every one of the Southesst Division teams can't improve their roster. Even here in DC if you use the Salary Cap Calculator over at CapGeek.com (go here)try and do this for example - put Michael Nylander into the second line center slot (not because you want him there but because it will show you a way how the Capitals could afford a ~$4m cap hit at that position this coming season) and then just play with putting the higher priced "baby Caps" from Hershey anywhere you'd like to place them to fill out the remaining three roster slots. In the end no matter how you slice it, you'll still have at least $1.4M of salary cap space and you are more likely to have between $2 and $2.5M. I know I'm sounding like a broken record but if that $4.875M of cap hit were really $3.9 for Patrick Sharp to be on the Right Wing of the Second Line with Brooks Laich at Center and Alexander Semin on the Left Wing; I'm thinking the Capitals would be even more powerful offensively this coming season then they were last season. Further they'd have a second line that could stymie most teams in the NHL's scoring lines when they needed to do so. In addition to Chicago New Jersey must now create some Cap Space and Vancouver is also over the Cap so there may be some deals to be made there of course I continue to fixate on Sharp because I loved the way he played in last season's playoffs.

In any case I'm still wondering - is it September yet?


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