The first shoe has finally dropped, the first domino has finally tipped over … whatever cliche you want to use, at least it’s finally over.
As you’ve no doubt heard by now, Ilya Kovalchuk finally decided that he’d rather New Jersey make him filthy rich instead of Los Angeles.
Several reports have revealed that Kovalchuk’s deal with the Devils is for 17 years and $102 million total — a cap hit of $6 million per season with a ton of money up front. Meanwhile, Kings general manager Dean Lombardi has confirmed to several outlets that Los Angeles’ final offer was $80 million for 15 years. So if there was ever any doubt this was all about the money, Kovalchuk proved it.
It didn’t take long for other teams to get active again after Kovalchuk ended his stint of holding the hockey world hostage. Philadelphia, in desperate need of cap room, shipped its $5.25 million sniper Simon Gagne to Tampa Bay for veteran defenseman Matt Walker and a fourth-round pick. Obviously, this was a straight salary dump, with the Flyers going from over the maximum to a little more than $1 million below, according to CapGeek.com.
Finally, that leads back to where every story does: the Bruins. Without restricted free agent Blake Wheeler or No. 2 overall pick Tyler Seguin signed yet, Boston has just a little more than $500,000 in cap space left. General manager Peter Chiarelli can use the 10-percent offseason cushion in his favor this summer, even through the signing of Seguin and Wheeler’s new deal (either through arbitration or settlement). He can even use Marco Sturm’s LTIR to postpone a hard decision until mid-season. Then if his best option is still to move Marc Savard, in terms of financial reasons rather than hockey ones, and Savard is fully healthy and on his usual offensive pace, the Bruins might be able to get a better return in the winter.
Right now, the Gagne deal might give you an idea of what the Bruins can expect to get in return in an offseason deal.
The 30-year-old Gagne has a well-documented injury history, including a bout with a concussion. But like Savard, when he’s on the ice, Gagne produces like few players in the modern-day NHL. Gagne will be an unrestricted free agent after this season, which might’ve actually made him a more attractive salary-dump pick-up because if things don’t go well, the Lightning can let him walk and they really risked very little. The 33-year-old Savard, of course, is signed for eternity (or really just through 2016-17).
One would have to think that now that they’ve been spurned by seemingly every attractive free agent they’ve wooed this summer, the Kings might turn their attentions to Savard. Cap space is not an issue in LA. Other teams that we’ve all read about in connection to Savard — Atlanta, Buffalo, Long Island — could also make more serious inquiries now that they know exactly what the trade value is for a 30-plus-year-old star player that’s under contract to a team with a muddled cap situation. For Savard, it could be as simple as just a mid-level prospect (the Bruins really don’t need, or have room for, an NHL body right now) and a third- or fourth-round pick.
That’s why you’ve heard Chiarelli talk about “standing pat” lately. He’s probably not willing to do a straight salary dump involving the best offensive player on the league’s worst offensive team unless he has at least one more deal in place to keep the team on the upswing. And getting teams to make moves this summer has been like getting over the Sagamore Bridge on a Friday afternoon.
So standing pat might be Chiarelli’s best option right now, and not just because trading Savard is ludicrous decision in the first place. December might be a better time to take the knife to this team’s roster. Now that we know where Kovalchuk will be spending his holiday season, we can see clearer that that’s around the time the Bruins might be reshaping their club.