Monday, September 6, 2010

Kovy's In, So Who's Out?

By: Tim Brennan

The wait for Ilya Kovalchuk to get off the free agent market is finally over. Kovalchuk became a lifetime Devil when he signed a 15 year, $100 million deal on Saturday. The contract was finally approved by the NHL and will pay the 27 year old Russian $90 million over the first 10 years. Ironically, Kovalchuk's cap hit per season will be $6.66 million. By the time the Devils pact with Kovalchuk expires he'll be 42 years old and more than likely sick and tired of playing for New Jersey.

Now that the Kovalchuk saga has finally come to a resolution, the Devils sit 3 million dollars over the cap limit. This creates a serious problem for GM Lou Lamoriello and the New Jersey Devils.

The Devils certainly have plenty of options available to get under the cap but the wrong move could damper the team's chances at competing at a high level. Several players will be up for grabs but certainly not Travis Zajac, who's name has been brought up countless times in trade rumors. If there's anything that Lamoriello doesn't want to do, it's trading Zajac. The Winnipeg native is the number one center on the team, plays a strong two way game and has created a deadly one two punch with Zach Parise. Zajac's numbers have gone the past two seasons and the 25 year old has the ability to blossom into a future Selke Trophy winner. In other words, trading Zajac would be a huge mistake.

Now the club can dangle a few high priced players in front of other teams and see if they take the bait and the contracts to go along with it. Three prime candidates for relocation are Bryce Salvador, Dainius Zubrus and Brian Rolston due to their large salaries. But one must wonder whether teams will want to take on any of these contracts.

Salvador is a stay at home defender who worked over Lamoriello to get a contract that would pay him $2.9 million a year. That's a high price considering that he doesn't contribute much offensively and is undersized. Salvador is pretty expendable, as still unsigned defenseman Mike Mottau plays a similar style but adds more offensively and is pretty dependable on the back end. But would a team take a chance on Salvador, given that he's 34 and has two more years left on his contract?

Both Zubrus and Rolston are reliable forwards who bounce around every line and can play every position offensively. Zubrus' cap hit comes in at $3.4 million for the next three years while Rolston looks forward to raking in $5.062 million each of the next two seasons. When healthy, Zubrus can put up 20-30 points but will New Jersey want to pay that much for a 3rd line center? And Rolston was a steady 30 goal scorer not to long ago but has tailed off in recent seasons so will the Devils want to keep him on a such a high price?

Since Brian Rolston has a no trade clause there is no way that he will be moving. Rolston started his career in New Jersey and it appears that the Flint, Michigan native plans on finishing up in the Garden State. Not to mention, Rolston still possesses a booming shot and a knack for versatility so the team needs someone of his stature.

Salvador and Zubrus on the otherhand do not possess no trade clauses and are more likely to leave New Jersey prior to the start of the new season. However, both Salvador and Zubrus haven't garnered any interest, leaving the Devils without options. A possible move could be trading long standing Devil Colin White. White is set to make $6 million over the next two years and hasn't been as noticable and productive as he was say three or four seasons ago. White does have a no trade clause in effect but if he was to be moved for the sake of the franchise, White might consider waiving it since the Devils have respected him for such a long time.

If all else fails, Lamoriello could banish one of these players (most likely Zubrus) to the minors, like he did with defenseman Dan McGillis in 2005.

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