Kovalchuk camp continues to gauge market

I laugh every time. The most common question I get from nonhockey people at this time of year is, “So, are you off now for the summer?”

Yeah, I wish.

Nope, this is when it actually starts to get busy. Between trades at the NHL draft on June 25-26 in Los Angeles and the free-agency market opening July 1, many players will switch uniforms during the next month or so.

It’s the NHL’s crazy season.

Check my blog out every day during this period. I will try to find out what’s going on, who’s going where and why it happened.

We start today with the big dog, Ilya Kovalchuk . He is easily the headliner for an unrestricted free-agent class that isn’t quite as deep in high-end talent as in recent years. All those restricted free agents signing long-term deals since the lockout are beginning to have an impact on the UFA list.

On the surface, Kovalchuk didn’t help himself too much when his new team, the second-seeded New Jersey Devils, was knocked out in the first round of the playoffs. (But he didn’t play badly, putting up two goals and four assists in five games.)

I don’t think the short postseason will have any impact on his market value. You know what you’re getting in the 27-year-old Russian: a goal machine just entering his prime. He already has 338 goals in 621 career regular-season NHL games.

There is continued dialogue between the Devils and Kovalchuk’s camp, but because the sniper has come this far, I think he wants to see what will be out there July 1. Can’t blame him, not after he turned down $101 million over 12 years ($8.4 million average salary) and $70 million over seven years ($10 million average salary) from his former team in Atlanta before the trade deadline.


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