Is Ilya the key to getting Aflie a championship in Ottawa?

Hunting Bigfoot - Ilya Kovalchuk: Part 2

If you are going to bring in a star, might as well land the biggest fish out there. Superstar LW ILya Kovalchuk leads the 2010 free agent class and has yet to be signed. It has been reported he is seeking a $100 million contract and wishes to be paid like the big boys such as Ovechkin and Crosby. Being only 27 yrs old, Kovalchuk is in his prime and presents a great opportunity to grab a proven superstar to add to any roster. In terms of pure skill and scoring threat, Kovalchuk is a top ten talent in the league and is always dangerous on the ice. Scoring at more than a point per game pace, Kovalchuk routinely puts up 40 goals and 80 points a season, and that is without an elite centre setting him up.

However, being a dangerous offensive weapon, Kovalchuk is also known as a floater in the defensive zone. This reputation was earned while playing eight years in Atlanta, a team that has never done anything since coming back into the league. Now not to say he will become a Selke nominee overnight, but playing on a team that is not out of the playoff race by December may give Ilya some incentive to venture back below his own blueline.

What can Kovalchuk bring to the Ottawa Senators? Well he would be a franchise left winger on the first line that generates instant offense. Ilya will be able to burry Spezza passes and give us another lethal option on the powerplay. He will be able to carry the offensive load with Spezza when Alfie retires in a few years; and Kovalchuk will give Ottawa an up-tempo offense that will bring back the bandwagon fans to SBP. With a lack of elite prospects at the forward position, Kovalchuk will also help the development of other Sens, such as Regin, who won’t have to play above their skill level.

But to get Kovalchuk, it won’t be cheap. It would likely cost Ottawa $100 million (because if it didn’t, he probably would have signed for less already). And in this age of the salary cap, how would Ottawa be able to afford the Russian? With a few bold trades, and working some magic with the cap, Ottawa would be able to afford to give Kovalchuk his $100 million.

To do so, Ottawa could sign Kovalchuk to a $100 million 15 yr contract. This would give Ilya an annual cap hit of $6.666 million. Using the Hossa contract as a model, the 15yr contract would be heavily front-loaded. You could pay Ilya $10 million a year in real money for the first five years giving him $50 million in five years. Then, he could get $8 million for the next five years until year 10 of his contract. This will give Ilya $90 million in real money in 10 yrs. In year 11, Kovalchuk can get paid $5 million giving him $95 million in 11 yrs. The last four years of the contract will be on a declining scale starting from $2 million till the end on the contract. After the 11th  year of the contract, Kovalchuk would have gotten $95 million out of the $100 million. He would be 38 by this time and ready to retire. And with only $5 million left on his contract for the last four years, it should be expected that Ilya would retire rather than play out the rest of the contract.

To be able to fit this kind of contract into the Senators salary cap, Ottawa would have to ship out a few bodies. The two players that could be traded with minimal damage to the roster could be (F) Chris Kelly and (D) Filip Kuba. Both players could be replaced with a younger player within the Senators organization at a cheaper cost. Zach Smith or Cody Bass are capable of replacing Kelly and Campoli or Cowen could replace Kuba. Kelly represents a cap hit of $2.125 million and Kuba has a $3.700 million cap hit for a combined $5.825 million cap hit. Ottawa would then only need $0.841 million in cap space to fit in a $6.666 million cap hit for Kovalchuk. This also depends on our three RFA’s taking less money on one year deals to be able to earn a larger contract the following season when they could leverage a better performance and the Senators will have more cap space. (The Sens will have $14.225 million coming off the books next summer)

What could our roster like look?

Forward Lines

Ilya Kovalchuk (6.666) – Jason Spezza (7.000) – Daniel Alfredsson (4.875)

Milan Michalek (4.333) – Peter Regin (1.500)* – Alexei Kovalev (5.000)

Nick Foligno (1.000*) – Mike Fisher (4.200) – Chris Neil (2.000)

Jarkko Ruutu (1.300) – Zach Smith (0.583) – Jesse Winchester (0.750)

Defense Lines

Sergei Gonchar (5.500) – Erik Karlsson (1.300)

Chris Phillips (3.500) – Brian Lee (0.875)

Chris Campoli (1.000)* – Matt Carkner (0.700)

Goalies

Pascal Leclaire (3.800)

Brian Elliott (0.850)

Total cap =$58.66 million**

* = projected salary

** = plus buyouts ($1.928)

Is this a line-up that could challenge in the East? Are we too close to the cap? It would be a bold move to bring in Kovalchuk, but I think it might be worth the gamble. The East has a lot of holes in it and it may be Ottawa’s year to take a chance. Is Kovalchuk the missing piece to help bring a cup to Ottawa and to help Alfie raise Lord Stanley?

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Tags: $100 Million Alfie Alfredsson Championship Daniel Alfredsson Dave Cameron Filip Kuba Ilya Ilya Kovalchuk Jason Spezza Kovalchuk Kuba Ottawa Ottawa Senators Ottawa Senators 2010-2011 Regin Russian Senators Spezza Stanley Cup

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