Kovalchuk interested in Leafs; Burke says nyet

NHL free agency opens exactly 15 days from today, and as you’ve no doubt heard already, Ilya Kovalchuk is, if not the prize, then certainly one of the top two along with Patrick Marleau .

Yesterday, ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun had a quote from Leafs GM Brian Burke basically squashing any speculation his team would be in the mix for Kovalchuk , saying simply: “We’re not going to be involved in that race.”

So there goes one top-six forward candidate.

What’s interesting about the Kovalchuk talk is that I’ve been told pretty definitively that the Leafs were among the teams he was interested in. While the player (who is under contract to the Devils until July 1) and his camp remain quiet on all this, the general feeling around the league is that Toronto was at least among the teams in the running.

Now, that might seem at odds with some of the things Kovalchuk’s looking for – with a winning team near the top of the list – but many still believe that Burke can, in adding pieces via free agency and trade this summer, turn things around rather quickly.

Yes, Kovalchuk is looking at a considerable contract, but with Nikolai Kulemin unsigned, Toronto has only roughly $12-million committed to their forward group, with nearly half of that going to Phil Kessel . It’s highly likely Burke radically alters his salary structure in the next three weeks, moving out money on the blueline for money up front.

There’s also some creative accounting that could come into play with Kovalchuk’s contract. We’ve already seen players like Marian Hossa sign behemoth deals stretching into the sunset with a relatively modest cap hit, and I think there’s a chance we see the same for Kovalchuk .

The final five years of Hossa’s deal, for example, include just $8-million in salary. If the Kovalchuk camp was willing to do something similar, on say a 13- or 14-year deal that took him to age 40-plus, it’s possible that he could get huge money up front, be locked up long term and have a cap hit in the $6-million or so range.

Do I think Toronto would sign a risky deal like that? Not really. But given a dire need for some quality offensive weapons to play with Kessel and Tyler Bozak, how many other options are there to boost the Leafs’ offence?

There is, for one, some general skepticism around the league that Tomas Kaberle will fetch the type of player Burke is seeking, and there aren’t many quality top six forwards in free agency outside of Kovalchuk and Marleau. Many of the traditionally big spending teams, meanwhile, are already in a tight spot payroll wise. Others are cutting salary altogether.


29 Responses to Kovalchuk interested in Leafs; Burke says nyet

  1. kesselleafs says:

    Burke GO FOR KOVALCHUK gamble there are plenty of sucess and flaws but if it flaws trade for another cheaper overpaid player plus kovalchuk wants to be a leaf he said and if we had him playoffs for sure

  2. Kessel_Leafs48 says:

    kovalchuk locked up long term with only a 6 mil cap hit!? but he'll still be making huge money up front? that'd be unreal! trade kaberle for possibly a high draft pick then there goes 4.5 mil cap space and then you still have about 10.5 mil cap space too do some more work up front and signings.. sounds like a nobrainer to me..  getting a 50+ goal scorer, top 10 draft pick and 10.5 mil in cap space… what do you think ?

  3. LeafsneedSteen says:

    Throw Kovalchuk's rights into a deal with the Devils? Would make sense, with conditional compensations in place.

  4. Frank181 says:

    Get it done Burke, Now.

  5. Fizzo68_leafs says:

    Let's be real; Kovalchuk is not comin to Toronto. Deep down we all know this come on; we're leaf fans. It would be nice. But we've all got guts that tell us "No". I'll give it does make for fun talk though. 

  6. inurface says:

    eh i seriously dun get it
    y put the same kovalchuk not commin to leafs article here again ??

    we already have the same exact topic being covered in another thread tht came our yes,,,or day b4…

    this is the same thin as kaberle being our ownly asset  article being repeted again and again…..

    y not change the topic or put it on hold for atleast a week?

    i dunno jus a suggestion,,.,.,.,.

  7. reinjosh says:

    Speak legibly and realize that we like out hockey and like to see articles talking about the same thing from different aspects.

  8. leafshockey says:

    Riiiiiiiiiiiight. Because Brian Burke is really gonna tell us all his plan. Hmm. Last time he said he was "interested" in a pending free agent, his head coach got fined. He's not gonna tell us if he is interested, becuase he's BRIAN FREAKING BURKE.

    I'm a pessimist by nature, as a leaf fan, and I don't think Kovalchuck is coming to Toronto because my life simply isn't that sweet. However, I also said the exact same thing about a certain defenceman from Clagary that another GM said he was "not interested" in trading.

  9. b_devils says:

    I cant really see kessel and him playing together…but heck! he is one of the top 5 snipers in the game! Ill take him!

    unlike Kessel he doesn't even need a center…lol
    we can have two solid lines, (and can afford to give Kadri the much needed extra year in the AHL)
    imagine the powerplay…phaneuf and kovalchuk on the points! lol
    it sounds too be good to be true…probably not gonna happen. 
  10. reinjosh says:

    Kadri might not need a year in the AHL. What better way to introduce him to the NHL than placing him with Kovalchuk – a 50 goal scorer – or Kessel a 35 and potentially more goal scorer?

  11. leafshockey says:

    Totally agree. IF we were to snag kovalchuck, I'd be all for putting Kadri with him. It would let him grow with one of the purest snipers in the league right next to him, make him work against the top lines but produce at the same time.

    And the powerplay? One thing is for certain: it would NOT be last in the league. Kovalchuck with his bomb from the left point or Phaneuf at the center with his bomb, Kessel along the half boards or in the slot, where ever he fits, Bozak delivering slick passes and whoever they pick to stand in front. I don't care what penalty kill the opposition is running, that thing would work.

  12. LeafsneedSteen says:

    I was really against the idea of Kovelchuk before, however watching a team with Kovelchuk and Kessel game in game out would make for the best MSLE entertainment in memory, even if we miss the playoffs again.

    It's been a while since Toronto landed a big name UFA, none would be bigger than Kovelchuk.  Long term at 7.5ish? We'd be set on the wing after sock piling young top nine wingers (Caputi, Stalberg, Garbovski, Paradis and Hanson).  Bring in Bertuzi for some size at cost…. ok I'm drinking the koolaid.

    Might even want to extend Kaberle to feed Kovelchuk on the PP.

  13. LeafsneedSteen says:

    Scratch Bertuzzi, he just re-uped for two years with the Wings.

  14. leafshockey says:

    Why wouldn't he be interested in the leafs? I don't care what haters will say, there is no denying the Leafs are on the up-swing. And he would be a huge star on one of the biggest hockey teams in the world. I don't think he wouldn't at least consider Toronto, and I can't see how Burke would leave him alone if he's a little interested.

  15. Kramer says:

    The Soviet hockey program took off after the Gulag closed. Before that players who didn't play good were sent off to concentration camps in the Siberian far east. Then success followed and was overplayed by the commie propaganda machine.

  16. Kill_Yourself says:

    weve already got dion and phil signed to large contracts if any of you think that kovalchuck is comin to tdot youre nuts! He's a great player but we cant handle a 10M cap hit. A trade for Patrick Sharp would be the best move.

  17. cam7777 says:

    many teams operate with multiple big contracts.  his cap hit would not be 10 million, it would be closer to 8.  It would fit.  And there's nothing to say we can't still trade Kaberle for a Sharp type (although I personally believe Sharp is off limits in Chicago).

  18. nordiques100 says:

    Basically Burke would have to a) want to give out the 10 year plus contract and b) he'd have to convince Kovalchuk to take that front loaded contract at a lower cap hit.

    Something like a 13 year, 91 mil a year contract where he'd get 84 million for the first 8 years and be owed 7 mil over the last 5. It would be a 7 mil cap hit.

    while that sounds all fine and dandy for this coming year, with Bozak, Stalberg, Schenn and Gunnarsson needing new deals after next year, it could impact the cap going forward. And lets not forget what the Leafs will have to pay for Kulemin, Hanson and Mitchell this year.

    Yes, they'll have the Giguere contract off the books, but that alone may not be enough to make the cap manageable. Also, yes, we understand the team could dump Finger, Kaberle, Grabovski etc., but still, you dont want to be in the situation the Hawks are in and have too many big contracts that may blow up in your face.

    If that deal for Kovalchuk above happened, that would be quite interesting to see the repercussions. And even that doesnt seem all that plausible as it would be pretty generous of Kovalchuk to take "less" or take that added term.

    On top of that, we'd expect a NMC. We all know Burke hates those.

    I just cant see it.

    Then again, Kovalchuk does have some incentive to join a team like Toronto.

    Between Toronto and Montreal they are the two most hockey mad places in the world.

    In either of those cities too, the players are like gods and would be promoted immensely. Kovalchuk has been behind the scenes in both Atlanta and Jersey in the shadow of the likes of Ovechkin, Malkin, Crosby, etc. Part of it may do with his lack of playoff success, but his name isnt mentioned as often as the other stars.

    In a big market like Toronto, the centre of the hockey universe many claim, the marketing Kovalchuk could get, the sponsors etc, he could be promoted in the biggest of ways here. He could cash in on endorsements and such, perhaps then allowing him to leave a few dollars on the table.

    That's just a guess. of course it doesnt have to be Toronto. NY or Montreal or one of the teams that made it to the finals could easily give him the spotlight too. But getting to a market where he can gain more recognition is probably something his camp is interested in.

  19. LeafsneedSteen says:

    Think of it this way if you could trade Finger, Grabovski and Giguere for Kovelchuk would you do it? Dump salary to bring in a franchise player, we could afford to have one.

  20. nordiques100 says:

    very true, but, they may get Kovalchuk and with Kessel and Phaneuf they may have almost 20 mil tied to 3 players. Throw in Komisarek, Beauchemin and Gustavsson and that's a quarter of your roster taking up more than half of the cap maximum.

    unfortunately with the cap, teams that could spend infinite amounts just cannot spend so wildly anymore.

    you dont want to get into the situation with Chicago. But with players like Kulemin and Hanson this year, Bozak, Stalberg, Schenn and Gunnarsson next year all needing new contracts, things can add up very quickly.

    Easily any team would trade off Finger, Grabovski and Giguere to pick up Kovalchuk. And hopefully Burke is creative and innovative enough to get something like that done.

  21. Kessel_Leafs48 says:

    You keep referring back to chicago.. should i remind you that they just won the cup last year and sure they dont have the cap room and have too unload at least one or two good quality players but they have a couple of really good prospects in their system and will have a cup contending team for years to come, if you ask me, id love to be in the situatuion chicago is in nevermind being scared to be in their position..   

  22. Mapleleaves says:

    I just heard on the radio Halak was traded to the blues for prospects.

  23. DannyLeafs says:

    Since there has been a few rumors about New Jersey pushing Heavily to get Kaberle, I started thinking about what they could offer that would really be enticing. David Clarkson would be a nice asset, but he is nowhere near enough to land Kaberle. Here is a proposal that I think makes sense if Jersey is serious about pushing to re-sign Kovalchuk, and Kaberle is willing to sign an extension.

    To New Jersey:
    62nd overall pick

    to Toronto:
    38th overall pick

    The way this brakes down is that New Jersey takes on approx 7.75 in salary while shipping out approx 9.25 for a cap savings 1.5 million while adding the puck moving defensemen they desire. What the Leafs get is an upgrade on Grabovksi and a big young play making center that Burke has desired. He may not be overly physical, but he plays a smart two way game, and would be an excellent addition to the line up. Clarkson would be a great addition to the leafs bottom six, he does a bit of everything, and has 20+ goal potential. Zubrus has underachieved and is overpaid, however in a less defensive structure he may be worth the gamble. For the Devils, they downgrade at center, and they get a less physical but still capable third liner, they shed a salary they would like to walk away from, and they move down 24 places in the draft, all so they can land a defensemen they highly covet. It may seem like they are giving up alot, but they are filling a big need without downgrading too much and all the while are actually saving cap space that they may want to spend on Kovalchuk.

    I am not saying it's likely, but what else does New Jersey have to offer? unless they are going to offer up Clarkson, and at least one of their top prospects, it's not likely they are going to generate a package that the Leafs are interested in.

  24. number15 says:

        Not just the Leafs, but Kovalchulk would be the biggest pro athlete in all of Toronto, from any sport…… why would MLSE let a chance like this get away.

       I believe Burke is not interested in Kovalchulck because he invested too much in Kessel. They r in the same type of mold and Burke hopes that Kessel can become a Kovulchulk type of player in the future. Getting Kovalchulk would be like saying they r not 100% on Kessel. They have invested two 1st rounders, a 2nd rounder and 5 million per season. He wont admit wrong doing

    …………………………………. do the right thing, sign Kovulchulk!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  25. reinjosh says:

    a) I doubt it. I would be really surprised to see Kovy sign any type of long term deal like that. All the info we got was that he turned down a 10 year deal from Atlanta. That doesn't mean he wants that long just that he didn't want to play with Atlanta.

  26. reinjosh says:

    I honestly can't see any deal working with New Jersey. Trading Zajac effectively makes Grabovski the first line center. Would you want that? As much as I defend Grabovski, he isn't a first liner.

  27. LeafsneedSteen says:

    The ceiling IMO is an eight per cap hit.


    Phaneuf (6.5), Kessel (5.4) and Kovalchuk (8) that's 19.9 million compare it too the best teams…

    Crosby (8.7), Malkin (8.7), Fleury (5.0) 22.4

    Ovie (9), Backstrom (6), Semin (4.6) 19.6

    Zetterberg (6.7), Datsyuk (6.1), Lidstrom (7.5) 20.3

    Heatley (7.5), Thoronton (7.2), Boyle (6.6) 21.3
    Kane (6.0), Campbell (7.1), Toews (6.5) 19.6 although a huge question mark

    Sedin(6.1), Sedin (6.1), Luongo (6.7) 18.9 they aren't equipped to win yet

    20 million for a core of three good players seems necessary, I think Kovalchuk may be the safest bet.  Signing him may force out a Komisarek or Beachemin to move forward long term. 

    There is a danger is trying to be cute and getting a Marleau at say 6.5, that is more cap friendly however Marleau might be a complete bust on a big contract.  Kovalchuk is the real deal, no doubt. 

    With the young top nine guys we have, we can fill holes up front at cost and still flip Kaberle to balance the back end with the forwards salary wise. 

  28. LeafsneedSteen says:

    Consider some teams with too weak a core to be competitive IMO

    Cammalleri (6), Gomez (7.3), Markov (5.75) 19 I think we saw their best case scenario this year

    Vanek (7.3), Pomminville (5.3), Miller (6.25) 18.85 not serious contenders

    Perry (5.325), Niedlemayer (6.75), Getzlaf (5.325) 17.4 good moving forward but missed playoffs

    Kopitar (6.8), Smyth (6.25) and Hanzeus (4) 17 but we don't have the luxury of a ten rebuilding plan

    Lecalvier (7.7), St.Louis (5.25), Malone (4.5) 17.5 gong show

    Brodeur (5.2), Elias (6), Rolston (5) 16.2 best number but buffalo like

    Chara (7.5), Savard (5), Thomas (5, lol) 17.5, Chiarelli is following the blueprint of not committing to big numbers.

    Iggy (7), Bowmeester (6.6), Kipper (5.8) 19.4 Bowmeester is the misstep

    So here are all numbers under 20 with significant issues.  The trend seems to be that teams that commit to 20-22 million range on elite talent are more competitive


    Timmonen (6.3), Briere (6.5) and Pronger (6.2) 18.7 too much depth for us to model 

    Cautionary tale

    Gaborik (7.5), Drury (7) and Redden (6.5) 20.5 Lesson don't sign question marks for 6-7 million dollars ergo avoid Marleau.

    So IMO the lesson is bang for your buck between 20-22, given that I like Kessel, Kovalchuk and Phaneuf as our core.

    The JFJ era should also be kept in mind as the danger of being cap conscious (i.e no one makes 6 million or more) in icing a competitive team.

  29. Pittsburgh_HotRod says:

    If Kovalchuk was smart, he'd take less money to go to a contender. A 5 million hit on the cap, but imagine Kovalchuk on the Red Wings, Pens, L.A. etc. Nothing against the Leafs, but they still are 2-3 years away from possibly being a Cup contender. I would guess Kovy wants to win now, not in 2-3 years…..

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