Kovalchuk gives Devils 'Big Shot' at title
There’s a new buzz around the Devils, and they’re selling tickets, too, for the big show in Newark, starring the “Big Shot.”
The Devils still have significant kinks to work out, the way they list so heavily to portside, but nobody would undo the deal that brought Ilya Kovalchuk to New Jersey — not as long as he doesn’t walk in July. They can’t afford him to be just a rental any more.
Kovalchuk yesterday was named the NHL’s third star of the week, behind goalies Brian Elliott of Ottawa and Jimmy Howard of Detroit. As the Devils play host to the Bruins tonight, Kovalchuk has eight points in their last four games, since the birth of his second child, and 20 points in 20 games with New Jersey.
Lou Lamoriello has a tiger by the tail, and if he lets go of Kovalchuk, it could come back to bite him. Imagine the fan fallout should the Rangers sign him up, as they did Scott Gomez and Bobby Holik.
The Devils have not won a Cup since they lost Scott Niedermayer, Brian Rafalski and Gomez to free agency. They probably never possessed an offensive star in his prime, like Kovalchuk, in their history. He surely never had a team with such immediate aspirations or possibilities.
Kovalchuk has yet to win a playoff game, and this seems his chance. If the Devils are serious about promoting themselves to the status they’ve earned, but never embraced, he is their chance.
Still, it is believed that not much has happened regarding negotiations. The Devils’ failure to move in advance of July 1 has been blamed by many departees as a needless launch towards free agency.
Atlanta traded Kovalchuk after he turned down a long-term deal worth more than $10 million per season. What may not have been understood is that he was telling the Thrashers that he wouldn’t stay even for that much money.
The Devils have seen how well he’s fit in, that he wants to be a team-first player. He is now the focus of attention among a fearsome group of forwards. They should be making him the best offer they can and hope he’ll stay for that little, instead of going to Broadway or Moscow.