The long-awaited decision has finally arrived: Ilya Kovalchuk has decided that he will remain with the New Jersey Devils. Details on the contract have not been released. The official announcement from both the Devils and the Kovalchuk camp will occur on Tuesday at Prudential Center.
Just what was it about the Devils that caused Kovalchuk to re-sign with them? When I spoke with his agent, Jay Grossman, prior to the free agency period, there were several items that were important in inking a deal with the Russian winger.
First, building a team around him was a factor. The Devils moved in that direction and signed a couple of free agents to attract him to the team: Anton Volchenkov and Johan Hedberg. Both players are friends of Kovalchuk. Not only do the two signings make the locker room more comfortable for him, but it is also the beginning of a build around him.
Second, while many believe that inking Kovalchuk will create problems in re-signing Zach Parise next year, part of Kovalchuk’s decision to remain with the Devils is having Parise on board. The rivalries that could exist between the two players are merely a myth. It is very important that Parise remain on the team, because Kovalchuk wants his team to win. Parise is part of that design.
Third, Kovalchuk has repeated numerous times that he would take a paycut if it meant remaining with the Devils. He said it not once, but several times. A few weeks prior to free agency, that was still the same story being repeated. Whatever the offer was from the Devils, Kovalchuk’s decision was not purely based on the amount of money they were offering.
If he was about money, he would have re-signed in Atlanta instead of wanting to be traded. He would have also signed with the KHL this free agency season, because they offered a lot of money for a short amount of time.
True to his word, Kovalchuk did not sign in the KHL. He had scoffed at any talks of going to the KHL back in April. SKA St. Petersburg never really had an honest chance in scoring this Russian. He wanted to remain in the NHL.
In the true dynamics that is the Los Angeles Kings, as luxurious of an item as Kovalchuk would have been for them, their future would have dwindled in the signing. It was not in their best interests to ink Kovalchuk if it meant giving up their future. That is also a future that would effect Kovalchuk being part of a winning dynasty. That, in itself, would have made the offer from the Kings unattractive.
Kovalchuk wants to be part of a winning team more than anything else. Since Day One with the New Jersey Devils, he loved the philosophy of how important it was to win. Losing was such a big thing to the Devils. With Atlanta, he said that losing was not that big of a deal.
For the Devils, losing is a big deal. You don’t want to be on that end of the spectrum in Devils territory. You might find someone throwing a jar of jelly across the room.
Jelly or no jelly, Kovalchuk loved the mantra of the Devils. Winning is everything and you learn from your mistakes when you lose so as not to do them again.
Another big selling point in the Devils favor was Martin Brodeur. Believe it or not, Kovy is a fan of the most winningest goaltender. If there every truly was any one person that could sell the Devils experience to Kovalchuk…it was none other than Brodeur.
With the Brodeur dynasty coming to an end in the next few years, the Devils were looking to building their dynasty around someone new. They had everything to gain in signing Kovalchuk. He will bring the money in. Parise has yet to do it all on his own. He needed help. The two combined can do great things together.
In the end, being a winner for a very long time was what it took to ink Kovalchuk. The Devils have a history of winning…and Kovalchuk loved it there.
The next step for the Devils involves a trade. Who? That is the question.
The trade for Jason Arnott solidified that certain members of the team will not be traded or asked to waive their no-trade clause. There is speculation that a defenseman and a forward will be traded to get the Devils under cap.
The Devils still need to re-sign defenseman Mike Mottau, so he will need to be added into the equation as well.