Russian team taking shot at Devils' Kovalchuk
The Devils may not have to choose between superstar left wings after all. The Russian campaign is on to lure Ilya Kovalchuk to the KHL, although it is believed no deal is yet done.
A source close to the two-time 52 goal scorer told The Post not to fully accept some Russian reports that Kovalchuk already has agreed to play for St. Petersburg next season.
“Don’t jump to conclusions,” warned the source at the World Championships in Germany, where Kovalchuk is captain of the Russian team and shared the tourney scoring lead with Rangers and eliminated USA center Brandon Dubinsky entering last night’s semifinal game against Germany.
There may be more substantial word after the tourney concludes tonight.
Kovalchuk becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1 after making $7.5 million last season, but NHL tampering rules do not necessarily apply to Russian teams jumping that gun.
Kovalchuk went 10-17-27 in 27 games with the Devils, 41-44-85 for the season, and led New Jersey at 2-4-6 in its five playoff games.
The Devils are facing a dilemma with Kovalchuk and Zach Parise , who will make $5 million in the upcoming final year of his deal. He can become a restricted free agent in 2011, elect arbitration to exact a salary likely in excess of $7 million for the 2011-12 season, and become unrestricted the season after. The Devils can extend Parise’s contract beyond next season with a long-term, major-money deal, and file it July 1.
Parise is choosing a new agent for the purpose of navigating those important decisions, and the Devils are unlikely to be able to afford both him and Kovalchuk after the coming season. Smart teams don’t pay megamoney just to move a superstar out of the position where he earned his standing, and the Devils’ left wing is overloaded while center and defense are begging for help.