Tuesday, July 6, 2010

As the Kovalchuk Turns

I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume that most of you are not paying very much attention to the NHL Free Agent Frenzy. This, of course, is perfectly understandable. After all, it's not like a number of name NHL stars have already made news and signed new deals unlike some other more closely followed free agent markets or anything.

Nope. NHL free agency is totally boring.

However, just when you thought it might get totally dull and static because nothing was going on, Ilya Kovalchuk's wild indecisiveness has saved us all and made this suddenly awfully interesting, and not because he happens to be the most dynamic offensive player to hit the unrestricted free agent market, well, maybe ever. Nor is it because Kovalchuk was the most sought after gem of the 2010 NHL Trade Deadline or because he's scored more goals than anyone else in the League in the last nine seasons.

No, this is simply because today has been one of the more bizarre days as far as sheer number of teams and possibilities that can't make up their mind as to whether they even want to be in the Kovalchuk sweepstakes. Over the course of today, Kovalchuk has been linked to eight different teams across two hemispheres, with some more plausible than others. After a while, what became most clear, at least to me, was that no one really knew anything.

Especially Kovalchuk.

It's rare that one player can be destined to sign with so many different teams over the course of 12 hours, but apparently it takes a dynamic player who can weave through defensemen seamlessly to have the ability to weave through three different countries in one afternoon. The hubbub all started when Kovalchuk's agent, Jay Grossman, promised that a decision was forthcoming not just sometime soon but today. Cue the hockey-writing twittersphere which gets all agog over his potential movement and almost immediately decides that Kovy is going to re-sign with the New Jersey Devils for an almost shocking discount compared to what he turned down mid-season from Atlanta.

Happy David, right? All well and good?

Not so fast.

Then comes a deluge of rumors that the deal may not yet be set in stone, though New Jersey is still the frontrunner, according to the New York Post. Of course, to anyone who has been paying attention on a minute-by-minute basis -- read: losers like David Kalan -- you will notice the subtle difference made by the Post in their headline from when the story first went out.

Hold the phone kids. What's going on? Well, suddenly rumors start flying that Kovalchuk is still being tossed around every which way. The Kings are still said to be in the race for obvious reasons (talent, cap space, big market) even though they have already announced that they are no longer negotiating. Next come the Islanders who are also said to be in the mix, something that, frankly, hasn't been news for a few days now. Soon the Rangers, Maple Leafs and even Kovalchuk's old home Atlanta is said to be jumping in with last minute offers.

Then, out of nowhere, word comes that Kovalchuk is suddenly mulling a return to his native Russia with SKA St. Petersburg. Not only do all of these rumors confuse the hell out of everyone, they also give free license to smartasses all over the internet to irritate the rest of us. Of course, others simply amuse us.

At long last, Grossman comes back out of the ether to indicate that after all of the hockey world went abuzz, Kovalchuk, in fact, won't be making a decision today, which basically means it's time for all of us to take a deep breath and relax because Kovalchuk clearly doesn't know where he wants to go. While we do know he has, supposedly, narrowed it down to two NHL teams, the end destination for the Russian sniper is anyone's guess. While most accept that one of those teams is the Devils, the other one is a subject of some debate amongst sportswriters and nonsensical soothsayers.

My guess? Kovalchuk and the Devils have a deal in principle, but New Jersey, short on cap space, is working hard to move a contract to make room for Kovy longterm. This would seem the most likely scenario, and many are wondering just what Devil will be the odd man out when all is said and done.

Of course, if Kovy hops to Russia or picks another team entirely, all of that hypothesizing becomes moot quickly. Like most hockey fans, I will be watching this closely, if for no other reason than because acquiring Kovalchuk turns the Devils from a contender to make a playoff run into an early favorite to reach the Finals in 2011. However, more than anything, I'd just like to know where he's going before every team in the League gets linked to him. Frankly, that doesn't seem far off.

Somewhere, I get the feeling, Ilya Kovalchuk and Lebron James are watching all of us scurry around like chickens with our heads cut off with beers in their hands.

Well, Ilya probably has vodka.

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