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.

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.

The Devils acquired Kovalchuk , 27, and defenseman Anssi Salmela from Atlanta Feb. 4 for Johnny Oduya, Niclas Bergfors , Patrice Cormier , a first-round pick and a swap of seconds.

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.

One Response to Russian team taking shot at Devils' Kovalchuk

  1. Redwings3019 says:

    I dont think Kovalchuk is going to play in the KHL next year. He'll either pick a team for a good length of time or pick a cup favorite and sign for 1 year (something like Hossa and Detroit) With players like Federov and Jagr still being paid to play in the KHL, Kovalchuk doesnt have a time stamp on his value over there. I think he wants to win in the NHL then he'll care more about money.

    New Jersey better do the smart move and stay with Parise because he is a better player.

    To fill the center's positions they should look to UFA and focus on Marleau, Higgins (had a bad year but I think is worth a contract at the right price but not the first choice), Lombardi, Wellwood and Comrie. Besides Marleau these players will probably be a 3 mil or less cap hit. I like each of these players and they bring a lot in my mind. Comrie is most likely going to leave or be left out of Edmonton because of the "offical" start of the rebuild, plus I think he could play any forward position well, he'll fit in nicely in NJ.

    Willie Mitchell is all but confirmed to be leaving Vancouver from what Ive heard, he had a 3.5 cap hit, is 32 and probably wont be above a 4 mil hit next season. Let Martin walk and sign Mitchell. Go to Niedermayer and hope he signs a 1-2 year deal that has a 1.5-2 million cap hit (hopefully he would like to close out his career with NJ).

    If Malhotra isnt resigned with SJ go after him as well. He'll probably be looking for a 1-1.5. Well worth it, this guy basically is a midaged Madden, fast, solid on D and great on the faceoff.

    Get Lilja or Lebda for 1-1.5 cap for 2-3 years. Solid D that just wont be able to fit into Detroit next season.

    Drop Danis and sign either Niittymaki (if he'll take another 600k cap hit) or Raycroft (if 500k) I dont know why but I dont like Danis, Raycroft looked solid in Vancouver when he played, Niittymaki is a solid goaltender. Brodeur then plays 60-65 games next season and is fresh for the playoffs.

    The best option would be some how work some magic and trade Rolston's 5 mil and White's 3 mil. (Hopefully someone hires JP baseball joke) You could let Niedermayer (Rob) go but I like him and with only a 1 mil cap hit keep him (plus could be helpful in bringing back Scott) Pandolfo is another contract that could be forgotten…

    Parise shows up for the big moments but when you look at Kovalchuk he seems to either fade or just shows flashes. Parise is a player you stay with for his career, Kovalchuk is someone you would like to add to your team, big difference. Parise needs to stay, sign him to a nice long term contract and in two years when Rolston's 5 mil is free to be spent bring a midaged player to go with him.

    Other noteables that NJ could look at are;

    Bertuzzi (big body, kind of streaky, low short term cap hit, schooled by Homer on how to screen a goalie, can play on any of the top 3 lines and is useful on the PP) 1-1.5

    Brendan Morrison (Solid 3rd line center that can be moved up to 2nd line if needed, hard working, could probably move around any forward position) 1-1.5

    Thomas Plekenac (he'll want a raise from his 2.75, not 100% sure on this guy but I hear fairly good things)

    Torres (Big body, can score, can most likely be moved to RW, will probably want a raise from his 2.75)

    Frolov (wants a raise to about 5 (cap hit), can score 30-40 goals…could probably switch to RW)

    Obviously cant get all this done but some of the key moves would be drop Martin, sign Mitchell (try for a 3.5 cap hit again) sign Lebda/Lilja with a 1 mil cap. Replaces 1 D with two equally solid D for the same cap. Trade rights to Kovalchuk for something (draft or a solid 2nd/3rd line player with low cap) Sign a solid 2nd line center, bring Halischuk up for that 2nd/3rd line RW. Corrente could also be brought up to fill a D spot if need be.

    Mitchell, Marleau, Bertuzzi, Malhotra, Niittymaki, Nierdermayer are the top players they should look at.

    New Jersey is hard to work with because of some contracts they have for the next couple years. These players seem unmovable (and in one case cant be bought out…) Unless ownership is willing to stick some serious money into their AHL team then its hard to say here is a solution.

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