Seventeen years is a long time, but not too long for the Devils and all-galaxy winger Ilya Kovalchuk, apparently. According to reports, Kovalchuk will get in excess of $100 million dollars in a deal that will run longer than both World Wars and the American Civil War combined. The front office in New Jersey must have had a whale of a time trying to project how things will be in 15, 16, and 17 years. Today’s babies will be driving. Today’s children will be parents. Today’s parents will perhaps be grandparents.
And Kovalchuk’s contract will still be on the books.
So, as Devils fans celebrate the retaining of their top offensive threat and take to partying like it’s 2027, it’s quite amusing to think back to a time when fans wanted the Bruins to make a deal last season to acquire the then-Thrasher at any cost. The asking price for Kovalchuk during the season included the first-round pick the Bruins had acquired from the Maple Leafs in the Phil Kessel deal. Blake Wheeler‘s name also popped up in rumors regarding the two teams, though it’s difficult to project which players would have made their way to Atlanta in a deal. During the season it was quite apparent the pick would be at least a top-five-to-top-three pick, and thus the Bruins pulled out of the running due to an unwillingness to move the pick.
Five months and an outrageously lengthy deal later, it appears the Bruins made the right move by making no move at all with the Thrashers. They kept the pick, which ended up being the second overall selection, and got what many believe is a star in center Tyler Seguin. Once signed, Seguin will receive a salary of $900,000 in addition to performance bonuses, which means his cap hit during the life of his entry level deal could max out at around $3.75 million.
Seguin’s contract, should he become the player many expect him to be, will be good money for a potentially elite player. However, given the current cap disaster the Bruins are dealing with, many are wondering how they will even be able to stay under $59.4 million while paying the rookie (who, at age 18, has been alive just one more year than Kovalchuk’s deal will run) the bargain rate of $900,000.
The team has between $500,000 and $600,000 in cap space and, in addition to having to sign Seguin, are just over a week from winger Wheeler’s arbitration date. That situation could be rather costly, as Wheeler earned $2.8 million last season and a source told WEEI.com Monday that the two sides have made “no progress” on a deal to avoid arbitration.
Had the Bruins made a deal involving the Toronto pick for Kovalchuk during the season, not only would they be without the long-term benefits of Seguin, but they would have almost surely lost the winger on the open market. Trying to work out a deal to keep him in the fold would be a stray from what the current front office is used to, as history has shown that general manager Peter Chiarelli’s idea of a lengthy contract is the seven-year, $28.05 million extension the team gave to center Marc Savard in November.
Keeping in mind the team has long-term plans outside of Seguin and Wheeler, getting and keeping Kovalchuk — even if he did receive as long a deal as he got from the Devils and carried a $6 million cap hit — would have made a lot of the Bruins’ other plans a lot tougher. Who knows if they would have been able to give defensemen Dennis Seidenberg and Johnny Boychuk raises before free agency hit or whether they would have waited it out in hopes of making sure they could retain Kovalchuk. Forget about devoting any time to potential extensions for Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron. Maybe Tim Thomas would have been forced to be expendable in a soft deal, thus making the goaltending situation far less stable. There are dozens of other combinations of undesirable cost-cutting maneuvers the Bruins would have been forced into just to make sure they had a chance at keeping the winger.
The Bruins should be applauded for having one of the better offenses for any team in the league. They gave themselves a chance to do big things by getting the pick from Toronto, and in keeping it, they may have avoided financial strife and roster catastrophe.