New York Hockey: New Jersey Devils

Brunner joins Devils on PTO

September, 16, 2013
9/16/13
6:55
PM ET
NEWARK, N.J. -- The Devils have signed forward Damien Brunner to a professional tryout contract for training camp.

General manager Lou Lamoriello confirmed the news Monday night before the Devils' preseason opener against the Rangers. Lamoriello said Brunner is already in New Jersey and will begin practicing with the team starting on Tuesday.

The 27-year-old Swiss forward had 12 goals and 26 points in 44 games for the Detroit Red Wings last season.

“He’s a natural scorer,” Lamoriello said. “He’s scored throughout his whole career. He’s a very skillful player.”

Lamoriello acknowledged that the team had inquired about Brunner during free agency this summer. After that didn't work out, the team decided to pursue him again as a training camp tryout.

But that doesn’t mean a contract will be automatically forthcoming once camp is over. Brunner will have to earn a spot by cracking the Devils' roster.

“No promises, no guarantees, nothing,” Lamoriello said. “Very up-front situation. Both of us know where each other is at.”

Lamoriello said the plan is to get Brunner into some exhibition games to assess “where’s he’s at” and evaluate whether he can be a good fit for the team.

Prior to joining Detroit, Brunner played five years in the Swiss A league in his native Switzerland.

Rangers repay favor, continue rolling

April, 21, 2013
4/21/13
8:22
PM ET
Ryan CallahanDebby Wong/USA TODAY Sports Ryan Callahan finished with two goals in the Rangers' 4-1 win over the Devils at the Garden.
A little less than 11 months since the Rangers were bounced from the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs by the Devils, they got to repay the favor and send their division rivals packing.

By dismantling the Devils 4-1, the Rangers officially eliminated New Jersey from playoff contention, and fans at Madison Square Garden relished the opportunity to serenade them on their way out the door.

With a 4-0 lead and nine minutes left in regulation, Rangers fans taunted the Devils, chanting "Sea-son's O-ver!" as the Blueshirts put the finishing touches on their third consecutive win.

More important than playing ouster to the Devils, however, is the fact that the Rangers seem to be on the upswing at exactly the right time.

Outscoring their opponents 18-6 over their past three games, the Rangers roll into the last week of the regular season with a stern grip on eighth place and their confidence the highest it's been all season.

The Rangers remain in eighth place with 52 points and three games left, all against nonplayoff teams.

"I think we're playing our best hockey that we've played all year," captain Ryan Callahan said. "Now's the time to do that, with us battling for a playoff spot."

Callahan led the way with two goals, including one on a tone-setting, physical first shift that ended with him tucking the puck at the left post to bank one in off goaltender Martin Brodeur's right skate just 34 seconds into play.

"[Callahan] scoring a goal the first shift like that really helps get the crowd into it. It got us into it," alternate captain Brad Richards said. "Especially an afternoon game, sometimes the longer they can lull the crowd to sleep, it can work against you. It woke us up quick and got everybody going, and we played a good, solid game."

Working a 2-0 deficit in the second period, the Devils briefly swung momentum with a jolt of energy before Taylor Pyatt halted a personal 26-game goal skid with a critical goal to put the Rangers up 3-0.

Richards, who now has seven points in the past three games, intercepted a pass from Devils defenseman Anton Volchenkov and dished off to Pyatt, who scored his first goal since Feb. 26.

"It's been a while," Pyatt said, while donning the team’s MVP Broadway Hat. "To score a big goal in an important game, it feels good."

That goal served to be the turning point of the game, as it seemed to sap the Devils' spirit. New Jersey was on the receiving end of some questionable calls throughout the game, and the second period ended with coach Pete DeBoer livid about a too-many-men penalty on the Rangers that went unnoticed. DeBoer was tossed with a little more than 10 seconds remaining in the game for jawing at officials.

The frustration boiled over for the Devils and provided a stark contrast for a Rangers club that seems to have reclaimed it’s swagger in the waning weeks of the season.

Starved for goals through stretches this season, the Rangers are now getting them in bunches.

Callahan and Richards connected in the third period for a 4-0 lead when Callahan lifted the puck over Brodeur, who was sprawled face first in the crease.

Brodeur was the recipient of taunts and jeers all game, beginning with the goal surrendered to Callahan in the first minute of play.

"It's always different, playing them," Richards said. "It's always nice to beat them, and it's a big win for us. I know they're out now, but that's not why we’re playing. We're playing because we need to stay alive."

Henrik Lundqvist pitched in with 26 saves, though his shutout bid was spoiled with 6:30 remaining in regulation, when Andrei Loktionov's wrist shot from the left circle got the Devils on the board.

Still, Lundqvist has surrendered two goals or fewer in 14 of the past 17 games.

"We're doing a lot of good things," Lundqvist said. "You can tell guys are making great plays right now, and it all starts with confidence."

Rapid Reaction: Rangers 4, Devils 1

April, 21, 2013
4/21/13
6:07
PM ET


What it means: Exacting revenge for last spring, the Rangers snuffed out the Devils' playoff hopes with a 4-1 win that mathematically eliminated New Jersey from contention at Madison Square Garden Sunday. Captain Ryan Callahan led the way, notching two goals to dismantle the Devils with Henrik Lundqvist pitching in to the tune of 26 saves. The Devils, who knocked off the Rangers in the Eastern Conference finals last season, have now missed the playoffs in two of the past three seasons.

After taunting Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur throughout the game, the crowd at MSG broke out into chants of "Sea-son's O-ver!" with about nine minutes remaining in regulation. The Devils and Rangers face one another again next Saturday in the last game of the regular season.

Payback for Rangers: With a 3-0 lead in the third period, Callahan served up the dagger with his second goal of the day. Callahan lifted the puck over Brodeur, who sprawled face first in the crease, to make it 4-0 and essentially close the door on their division rivals. With an assist on Callahan’s third-period marker, alternate captain Brad Richards now has seven points in the past three games.

Skid snapped: Though the Devils carried play in the first half of the second period, Taylor Pyatt notched a pivotal goal that gave the Rangers a 3-0 lead, his first in 27 games. Richards intercepted Devils defenseman Anton Volchenkov’s pass along the boards and dished off to Pyatt, who had not scored since February 26.

DeBoer distressed: Devils coach Pete DeBoer was livid about a number of calls during the game, particularly after a missed too-many-men penalty that went unnoticed toward the end of the second period. The Devils earned a bench minor with 5:18 left to play for "abuse of officials." Alternate captain Patrik Elias would later earn an unsportsmanlike conduct in the third period. DeBoer was tossed from the game with less than a minute in regulation.

Second guessing: Officiating might not have been the only thing DeBoer was second guessing. DeBoer opted to scratch defenseman Mark Fayne in favor of the more physical Volchenkov, who returned after sitting four games while serving a suspension for elbowing Boston’s Brad Marchand. Volchenkov’s costly turnover might have been a turning point in the game.

Early lead: With a combined 14 goals in their previous two games, the Rangers carried over their offensive momentum into the first period Sunday. Callahan got the Blueshirts on the board with a goal only 34 seconds into play, banking the puck in off Brodeur’s right skate. Derek Stepan extended the Rangers' lead later in the period, tipping in Ryan McDonagh’s point shot at the 12-minute mark for a 2-0 advantage.

Strong PK: Though they surrendered two even-strength goals, the Devils were excellent on the penalty kill in the first period. New Jersey killed off four Rangers power plays, including 23 seconds of 5-on-3 time.

Rivalry week in New York

February, 4, 2013
2/04/13
10:29
AM ET
With the first few weeks of the 2013 season already in the books, some key matchups lie ahead for the three local NY/NJ teams.

On Tuesday, the Devils host the Rangers in the first rematch of last year's Eastern Conference finals. The Rangers are still struggling to string together wins -- they have done so only once this season -- and the Devils have dropped four of their last five. Still, the reigning Eastern Conference champs lead the Rangers by three points in the Atlantic Division.

The Rangers face another tough test Thursday against the Islanders at Madison Square Garden. Although the Isles were blanked on Super Bowl Sunday by backup netminder Johan Hedberg and the Devils, they're off to a solid 4-3-1 start, good for third in the Atlantic.

Post-lockout chat wrap

January, 9, 2013
1/09/13
9:43
AM ET
Now that hockey is back, we answer all your burning questions in the first post-lockout live chat of the season.

Read the chat wrap here.

FanSpeak: Rangers or Devils?

May, 15, 2012
5/15/12
10:41
AM ET



Eastern Conference Finals, New York Rangers vs New Jersey Devils: King Henrik vs. Brodeur, hard hits and Rangers coach John Tortorella’s upfront commentary: We're excited, how about you guys?

From Brodeur was good; Lundqvist was better:

"Big win for the Rangers but the series is far from over. I was just very impressed with the level of stamina they displayed in that 3rd period on such short rest. Let’s keep this going Rangers and shut that fat mouth Milbury up once again."
- Tisaacs311

Ed.'s note -- After a tough seven-game series against the Capitals, the Rangers sent a message in Game 1.

From Good is not enough versus Lundqvist:

"Lundqvist could easily do what Thomas did for Boston last year. However, if the Devils continue to forecheck and generate chances, they’ll have a shot."
- drexel2014

Ed.'s note -- You always have a chance in the NHL when you’ve got a great goalie and Martin Brodeur and Henrik Lundqvist are two of the greatest.

"Lundquist kept them in the game in the 2nd period. But, he didn’t have to do much in the third. It was all Rangers, totally dominated the Devs"
- ediddy777

Ed.'s note -- The Rangers seemed to find their stride in the third, with Chris Kreider, Dan Girardi and Artem Anisimov all scoring. Until then, the Devils had the edge.

"Check the stats…the Rangers have owned the Devils in their last 7 games. Most disrespected #1 seed ever."
- Amazins1230

Ed.'s note -- Lundqvist has certainly dominated Brodeur head-to-head in his career with a 23-7-5 record against him, but how can you say the Rangers have been disrespected? Who is disrespecting them? They weren’t head-and-shoulders above the rest of the league -- only one point separated them from Pittsburgh and only seven separated them from New Jersey.

From the Game Recap:

"great win for the Rangers. But you have to give the Devils a lot of credit. They pretty much owned the Rangers in 1st and 2nd period. Marty had a couple hell of a saves especially the one on Staal."
- nyr469420

"What a dominating 3rd period. This series is not going 7. In fact, break out the brooms, cause this Devils team is overmatched!!!"
- NY Rangers Destiny 2012

Ed.'s note -- Predicting the sweep! Bold, but expect the Devils to make this a series.

From the Rapid Reaction: Rangers 3, Devils 0:

"The Rangers are possibly the most likeable team ever. The best goalie in the world who isnt cocky but is as confident as anyone, A couple experienced Vets, a pure raw talent scoring guy in Gaborik, young talent that play with the most heart I've ever seen(basically everyone except Richards and Rupp), and the VERY young talent (Kreider) who will be around for years and years guaranteeing a secure future for the team."
- KNVB692

Ed.'s note -- If you're right, we might see New York become Hockeytown yet!

"Its rediculous to think NYR can build a "dynasty" in the sport with the most parity in professional sports - no team has more than 1 championship since the lockout, and that trend will continue this year."
- PrinceJimmyKudo3000

Ed.'s note -- Or not.

From Facebook:

"Brodeur had his share of cups, he’s 40 now, at this point in his career he’s close to retirement, whether u wanna admit it or not this is now Henriks time to get there and hopefully win 3 cups like Brodeur!"
- Brian Bucman Murph

Ed.'s note -- So are we going to see a passing of the torch? Keep watching and keep commenting (hey, at least you know we’re paying attention).

Zajac could be Kovy cap casualty

August, 30, 2010
8/30/10
8:28
AM ET
While the hockey world waits for the NHL’s verdict on the re-submitted contract for LW Ilya Kovalchuk, the New York Post wonders who goes if Kovalchuk stays. The Dallas Stars are thought to be a possible destination for D Bryce Salvador, with Dainius Zubrus – a target we looked at a little Friday – also mentioned. Other possibilities are far more complicated given no-trade-clauses in their contracts, but one name may cause the faithful to groan at the continually rising cost to keep the Russian sniper.

According to a new blog post from the Post early this morning, C Travis Zajac is rumored to be on the trading block should Kovalchulk’s deal be approved. The center makes $3.89 million per season, which would help solve the Devils’ salary cap concerns, but he also put up 67 points last year as the team’s top pivot.

On one hand, trading Zajac would be a serious hit to this team, as newly acquired C Jason Arnottwould inherit top-line duties and the Devils would likely have to promote their second-line center from within the organization. On the other, the trade market for Zajac would be far more lucrative than for either Salvador or Zubrus, meaning GM Lou Lamoriello could earn some decent low-salary pieces for the future (prospects, draft picks) in return. The Washington Capitals have been searching for a second-line center all summer and would almost certainly be interested in Zajac. The Caps also have one of the deepest farm systems in hockey and could send the Devs some solid value.

But even then it's far from an ideal solution. There is a thought that centers and defensemen are the building blocks of Stanley Cup champions in today’s NHL, with the elite blue line of the Detroit Red Wings (2008 champions) and Chicago Blackhawks (’10), and the three-deep center corps of the Pittsburgh Penguins (’09) often used as examples.

Should the Devils move Zajac, his most likely replacement is Swedish C Jacob Josefson (drafted 20th overall in 2009), ranked as the second-best prospect in New Jersey’s system (behind Mattias Tedenby).

Josefson spent last season playing in his native country (20 points in 43 regular-season games for Djurgardens), but inked an entry-level deal with the Devils in May. Thought to be a heady, two-way player capable of reaching the NHL this season, he may now play a far more pivotal role than expected.

Trading the 25-year-old Zajac just as he enters his prime is certainly not an appealing avenue for the Devils to pursue, but the team will have to do something to clear the necessary space, thought to be at least $3.07M.

The Post's speculation on Zajac is only attributed to rumors, and it's doubtful he's the team's top trade option. But with so many players enjoying no-trade clauses in their contracts (Patrik Elias, Colin White, Brian Rolston, Jamie Langenbrunner and Johan Hedbergamong them), Zajac may not be as far from the top of the list as you might think.

Morning Links
  • Lamoriello told Fire and Ice he feels confident about the contract and that it will be approved by the NHL. We could hear as early as today. Wednesday is deadline day. Also, one small detail has emerged: The first year of Kovalchuk’s contract pays $6M.
  • In Lou We Trust wonders when Mike Mottau will be signed.

Potential Kovy contract cap fallout

August, 27, 2010
8/27/10
5:28
PM ET
After Ilya Kovalchuk’s Russia-based agent hinted that a deadline was looming and his client might take his talents to the Kontinental Hockey League, the Devils have submitted a new contract to the NHL. The league now has five days to review the pact and issue a ruling on whether or not they will accept it, which means a verdict will be issued before the end of Sept. 1.

If the league rejects the contract -- and if Kovalchuk is serious about spending the season in Mother Russia -- the window for further negotiations with the Devils will be small. The KHL season begins Sept. 8.

However, the Devils and the league have been in contact throughout the week regarding an acceptable contract structure. Presumably both the Devils and Kovalchuk’s representation would have had a pretty good idea how the NHL would react before the latest contract was submitted Friday. The Bergen Record’s Tom Gulitti is reporting the proposal was not pre-approved by the league, however.

TSN’s Darren Dreger tweeted that the contract is believed to endure for fewer years and have a more balanced distribution of salary. He also noted that the deal is rumored to be for 15 years and $100 million, placing the cap hit at an oh-so-apt $6.66 million for the Devils.

If those terms are correct -- and the NHL approves -- that places the Devils about $3.07M over the cap for next season, according to CapGeek.com. If so, then New Jersey will have to do a bit of juggling to free up enough space, and may have to dump multiple players to accommodate Kovalchuk’s cap hit.

Previous speculation placed Bryce Salvador, Dainius Zubrus and even captain Jamie Langenbrunner in peril of being pushed out the door. However, only Zubrus carries a cap hit over the needed $3.07M ($3.4M for the next three seasons). That duration, his age (32) and middling production (.48 points per game over the last three seasons) will also make him hard to move.

It seems more likely the Devils will try to divest themselves of multiple contracts. Aside from Zubrus the only players that would clear enough cap space by themselves are Martin Brodeur ($5.2M), Patrik Elias ($6M), Brian Rolston ($5.06M), Travis Zajac ($3.89M) and Zach Parise ($3.13M). And obviously the recently-acquired Jason Arnott, Henrik Tallinder and Anton Volchenkov aren’t going anywhere.

Perhaps the Devils will follow the plan of the Chicago Blackhawks, who alleviated their cap crunch by loaning G Crisotbal Huet to a team in Switzerland. The NHL is on the record as stating such a move is permissible (scroll down), calling it “cap maintenance.” If GM Lou Lamoriello can convince Zubrus to take a year-long sabbatical to Europe, that could solve the problem.

Where the contract leaves the team for 2011-12, when Parise is up for a new contract, is another issue. The Devils are already on the hook for $41.8M. Add Kovalchuk's $6.66M hit and that leaves just $11M for a Parise raise and about 10 more empty roster spots, if the cap ceiling remains at $59.4M. If Parise's extension matches that of Chicago's Patrick Kane ($6.3M) that leaves the Devs with just $5.3M remaining. Good news if you're a recent Devils draft pick, I guess.

A Fehrful day in the NHL; Kovy update

August, 27, 2010
8/27/10
8:57
AM ET
FDR famously said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Well, yesterday’s developments in the NHL may have altered the spelling slightly to F-E-H-R.

The hockey media responded to reports that former MLBPA leader Donald Fehr will soon take over the NHL players association with much trepidation yesterday. The players association has been rudderless since the middle-of-the-night axing of Paul Kelly.

Unlike baseball, whose players association is strong like bull, the NHLPA has been seen as weak and its membership disinterested since the 2004-05 lockout. Fehr’s veteran leadership should change that, which is fueling concerns of another labor stoppage in the NHL after the current collective bargaining agreement expires at the end of the 2011-12 season.

ESPN’s Scott Burnside writes that the recommendation in favor of Fehr by the search committee, which included Fehr himself, seems a little too convenient.

Devils fans longing to see Ilya Kovalchuk skate in Newark had even more to fear yesterday, as a report from Yahoo!’s Dmitry Chesnokov states that if the Devils cannot get a contract approved by the NHL in the next 24-48 hours, Kovalchuk could decide to spend next season in the KHL.

Yuri Nikolaev, Kovalchuk’s agent in Russia, said he had spoken to KHL team SKA St. Petersburg and that a decision will come Friday, according to Sovetsky Sport (via Fire and Ice). It’s been previously reported that SKA St. Petersburg would allow Kovalchuk to name his terms if he came to the KHL. With that kind of offer, Kovalchuk could be kissing his own miniature giraffe by tomorrow night.

Chesnokov allows that it could be bargaining bluster, but to what end? It’s not as though the Russian requires better terms from the Devils. And it’s unlikely that a second suitor from the NHL will jump in at this stage. Particularly since the Los Angeles Kings, Kovalchuk’s other most likely landing spot, just inked D Willie Mitchell for $7 million over two years. The words may be intended to pressure the NHL into softening their stance on Kovy’s contract, but if the NHL is serious about stopping salary cap circumvention, they have little choice but to stand their ground.

Should make for an interesting Friday.

Morning Links

Bettman disputes report; Medvedev lurks

August, 26, 2010
8/26/10
8:34
AM ET
It just wouldn’t be a sunrise without a little new light thrown on the Ilya Kovalchuk free agency marathon. ESPN’s Scott Burnside writes that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman denies the NHL nixed the proposal brought by the New Jersey Devils and Kovalchuk’s agent, Jay Grossman.

The New York Post reported Wednesday that the league had spiked the second attempt. The Commish may just be parsing words here, as he states, “In order for a contract to be rejected, there would have to be a signed contract submitted," Bettman said. "There has not been a signed contract submitted."

It’s been previously reported that no contract was actually submitted at the much-discussed Monday meeting between the Devils, Grossman and the league, but rather a conceptual framework. Burnside notes that Bettman did not dispute that there has been ongoing discussion between the parties on what the league would allow under the salary cap.

Meanwhile, KHL top boss Alexander Medvedev, on hand in Toronto for the World Hockey Summit, made it clear that his offer to Kovalchuk was still on the table and said he’d received a call from the winger’s agent yesterday.

As reported by Pavel Lysenko of Sovietsky Sport, and posted on the New York Post’s hockey blog, the NHL will only agree to a contract term of 13 years or less. The last framework on Monday was reportedly for 15 years.

Morning Links

Rangers, Isles and Devils TV schedule

August, 25, 2010
8/25/10
4:35
PM ET
The NHL released its national TV schedule today, which includes 11 games on Versus for the New York Rangers. That number matches Detroit, Chicago, Boston, Pittsburgh and Washington for the most appearances in the league. Meanwhile the Islanders have but two dates on Versus, but that's two more than the Panthers, Oilers and Senators combined. That group combined for exactly zero games on the home of the Tour de France. Neither the Oilers nor the Senators are currently in consideration for an NBC telecast either.

The Peacock may pick up as many as five Rangers games (all against the Flyers or Penguins), while the Devils have three contests in consideration. The Islanders' Jan. 23 game with the Sabres is on the board as well. The schedule for each team on Versus (and the potential NBC games) are below.

New York Rangers (All times ET)
  • Oct. 18, Colorado, 7 p.m., Versus
  • Nov. 9, Washington, 7:30 p.m., Versus
  • Nov. 17, Boston, 7 p.m., Versus
  • Dec. 15, @Pittsburgh, 7 p.m., Versus
  • Jan. 24, @Washington, 7 p.m., Versus
  • Feb. 1, Pittsburgh, 7:30 p.m., Versus
  • Feb. 7, Detroit, 7:30 p.m., Versus
  • Feb. 13, Pittsburgh, TBD, NBC
  • Feb. 20, Philadelphia, TBD, NBC
  • March 1, Buffalo, 7 p.m., Versus
  • March 6, Philadelphia, TBD, NBC
  • March 20, @Pittsburgh, 12:30 p.m., NBC
  • March 30, @Buffalo, 7 p.m., Versus
  • April 3, @Philadelphia, 3 p.m., Versus
  • April 4, Boston, 7:30 p.m., Versus
  • April 17, Atlanta, 7 p.m., Versus
New York Islanders
  • Oct. 13, @Washington, 7 p.m., Versus
  • Jan. 23, Buffalo, 3 p.m., NBC
  • Feb. 2, @Pittsburgh, 7 p.m., Versus
New Jersey Devils
  • Dec. 21, @Washington, 7:30 p.m., Versus
  • Jan. 4, Minnesota, 7 p.m., Versus
  • Jan. 23, Florida, 3 p.m., NBC
  • Jan. 26, @Detroit, 7 p.m., Versus
  • Feb. 22, @Dallas, 8:30 p.m., Versus
  • March 20, @Columbus, 5 p.m., NBC
  • April 5, @Pittsburgh, 7:30 p.m., Versus
  • April 10, Boston, 3 p.m., NBC
Langenbrunner talks Kovalchuk

Puck Daddy contributor Nicholas J. Cotsonika spoke to Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner today about Ilya Kovalchuk. Langenbrunner, currently in Toronto for the World Hockey Summit, says he believes Kovalchuk "wants to be a part of our team."

Earlier today, Greg Wyshynski posted that the revised contract framework the Devils and Kovalchuk's agent, Jay Grossman, discussed with the NHL placed the deal's interminable term at 15 years instead of the original 17. That would take Kovalchuk to age 42, instead of 44. That's not good enough for the NHL, who is perhaps afraid a tennis ball-tipped walker could prove unwieldy on the ice.

Kovalchuk drama drags on

August, 25, 2010
8/25/10
8:08
AM ET
The reported 24-hour window in which many were expecting to see Ilya Kovalchuk sign a contract has come and gone with no progress towards keeping the star winger in New Jersey. The reason? The NHL is still not satisfied with the Devils' second proposed deal.

The New York Post is reporting that the New Jersey Devils’ re-worked contract with Kovalchuk did not pass muster after a meeting with NHL officials Monday to discuss the proposal conceptually. The Post also incorporates some not-so-subtle undertones that the NHL may be forcing Kovalchuk to the KHL by continuing to oppose the contract.

Mike Mazzeo of the Newark Star-Ledger writes that the Devils would not confirm anything on the Kovalchuk contract at an Atlantic City press conference yesterday. They did announce that the team’s AHL affiliate in Albany will play four games at Boardwalk Hall, which is clearly the next best thing to Kovalchuk news.

“Until something’s done, it’s not done,” GM Lou Lamoriello said of the Kovalchuk contract. In a related story, the sun will rise in the East tomorrow. Stay tuned for updates.

Morning Links

More on Devils' NHL meeting

August, 24, 2010
8/24/10
8:46
AM ET
The local press has a little more on the Ilya Kovalchuk development from yesterday. Mark Everson of the New York Post points out that the window may be closing for NHL teams to reach a deal with the Russian LW, as the KHL starts up play Sept. 8. Kovalchuk has shown little interest in that league to date, however. Yahoo!’s Dmitry Chesnokov reported on what Kovalchuk might receive from a KHL club earlier this month.

The Post story also credits a source as saying the Devils are working to move D Bryce Salvador, perhaps to the Dallas Stars, to free up his $2.9 million in cap space.

Tom Gulitti of The Record adds a quote from NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly confirming that no new contract was submitted at yesterday’s meeting.

With the flurry of activity yesterday, most seem to expect a new contract to be submitted today, though there has been nothing concrete reported. While you’re waiting on the edge of your seat for breaking news, scoot a little closer and check out today’s links.

Morning Links
  • Beyond the Blueshirts has a translated interview with Alexander Frolov from Russian site Sportbox.ru, explaining why he picked the Rangers over the KHL. He says the Rangers are a respected franchise and blah, blah, blah … Look, it’s a great interview, but when it comes to the KHL, forget the money. Forget the rep of NHL teams. There are other factors at play.
    In the NHL your worst road trip is the long flight to Vancouver. In the KHL it’s to Khanty-Mansiysk, located in the heart of that thriving tourist Mecca known as Siberia. One of Khanty-Mansiysk’s most notable enterprises? Its “large beast farm.” Rick Steves is all over that one.
    Check out the town on this map. Oh, and be sure to scroll out to see how, uh, close it is to other Russian cities. I-95 looks pretty appealing now, eh Alex? Who wants Roy Rogers?
  • Former Providence College standout Mark Fayne inked a deal with the Albany Devils. Fayne, a defenseman, was drafted by New Jersey in the fifth round in 2005.
  • The Islanders’ Behind the Number series hits you with some knowledge on No. 23, which belonged to Bob Nystrom.
  • Blueshirt Banter goes waaaaay inside the shootout with some serious Rangers-related stats.
  • Newsday’s Steve Zipay tweets the Rangers will unveil their third jerseys in November. SNY Rangers Blog’s Adam Rotter says they’ll likely be throwbacks to honor the team’s 85th anniversary.
  • Lighthouse Hockey compares the Islanders’ forwards current salaries with those on the 2008-09 squad. It’s a stark contrast.
  • Chris Botta writes on NYI Point Blank that Butch Goring will succeed Billy Jaffe on MSG’s Islanders broadcasts.
  • The World Hockey Summit began Monday, bringing some of the sport’s most influential figures to Toronto. ESPN’s Scott Burnside has more.
  • While the NHL spent part of last week sampling new rules for future implementation, at least one change will take effect for next season. As E.J. Hradek reported, the NHL will now use overtime and regulation wins as the first regular-season tiebreaker, excluding shootout victories. That change wouldn’t have had much impact last season, but it would have flipped Florida and Montreal for the final Eastern playoff spot in 2008-09, with the Habs owing seven of their 41 wins to the shootout.

Devils, Kovalchuk deal imminent?

August, 23, 2010
8/23/10
5:30
PM ET
On-again-off-again Devil Ilya Kovalchuk remains a free agent, but for how much longer?

Sources confirmed to ESPN’s E.J. Hradek that Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek, GM Lou Lamoriello and Kovalchuk agent Jay Grossman convened at the NHL offices in New York today.

Does that mean a contract is imminent? Not necessarily. Last week in Toronto, Commissioner Gary Bettman was asked by the media if the league would advise teams on what an acceptable structure for Kovalchuk’s contract might be. He said that the NHL would provide such a service, but would not confirm if any team had approached the league. Perhaps that’s what the Devils were doing today. Or perhaps Kovalbucks is about to cash in a new deal in a matter of minutes and hours.

Since the Devils’ original deal was voided there’s been the lingering sentiment that Kovalchuk and New Jersey will reach another accord. But the salary cap is proving a serious complication.

The Devils only have a little under $3.7 million remaining in available cap space (according to CapGeek.com). And even if they dumped a contract -- say, Dainius Zubrus and his $3.4M hit -- they’d still only free up a total of around $7M.

If they restructured the deal so Kovalchuk was playing until 40 instead of 44 -- probably the longest term the Devils could get away with -- the average cap hit spikes from $6M to $7.8M per year. Now, even if they moved Zubrus and reduced the term to a more reasonable length, the most they could offer Kovalchuk is $91M total -- which gets the deal in at $7M per. But that would mean the Russian wing would leave $11M on the table from his voided deal. The Los Angeles Kings, thought to be another serious suitor, could offer a deal to top that quite easily, if they’re so inclined. So could the spendthrift Islanders for that matter … well, if their name wasn’t always prefaced by “spendthrift.”

But even if Kovalchuk takes less money and the Devils do a deal at $7M per, the team puts itself in a bind next year when Zach Parise’s deal comes up. Based on my English major math skills, add a Parise cap hit on par with Patrick Kane’s $6.3M on top of Kovalchuk’s $7M to the team’s existing contracts and you’re looking at about $7M (give or take a few $100K) to fill half a roster in 2011-12. It’s not impossible, but it’s quite a squeeze for future years.

So could the Devils dump a contract bigger than that of Zubrus?

As tweeted by Dmitry Chesnokov, in order to afford Kovalchuk, a former Devils trainer told a Russian paper he believes the team will deal Patrik Elias. File that one under: “Bold Moves.”

Summer Skating

August, 23, 2010
8/23/10
8:33
AM ET
With training camp coming right around the corner, talk has started to turn to some of the NHL’s young players on the cusp of cracking the big league roster.

A pair of summer series took a look at the New York area franchises late last week. ESPN Insiders can check out some player projections from Puck Prospectus and get a glimpse of the future, as E.J. Hradek lists key prospects to watch for in camp. Here’s a taste:

New York Islanders: Nino Niederreiter

The lefty-shooting right wing doesn't turn 18 until Sept. 8. In fact, he was among the youngest players in his draft class. While he'd probably be better served by another season of junior hockey, I won't be surprised in the least if he's wearing blue and orange on opening night.

New Jersey Devils: Alexander Urbom

Eyeballing him during the Devils prospect camp last month, he reminded me of a young Vladimir Malakhov. I'm not saying he's that good; rather, I just felt he has same lanky build. He seemed to have good feet for a bigger player and he looked comfortable and confident during the prospect scrimmages. Of course, it's hard to say what it really means to look good (or bad) in a summer prospect game.

New York Rangers: Mats Zuccarello Aasen

The undrafted 22-year-old (he turns 23 on Sept. 1) opened some NHL eyes with his play for Modo in the Swedish Elite League as well as his Olympic performance for an overmatched Team Norway. In fact, Zuccarello Aasen led the Swedish league with 64 points in 55 games. (Before you get too crazy about that, keep in mind former Ranger Jan Hlavac was the league's fifth-leading scorer as well as its top goal producer.)

There’s plenty more on each prospect and each team, including projections of players on the rise and others whose production is expected to slip back.

Not an Insider? NHL.com’s 30 in 30 series (Huh, that sounds familiar … ) explores who’s new, who’s nixed and what’s next for the Devils, Islanders and Rangers.

While the only cup talk on Long Island this summer was followed by the suffix of “cake,” the headline of that NHL.com Isles’ piece taps the team as playoff contenders.

Don’t scoff. The Isles stayed in contention until late January last season, then fell off following a seven-game losing streak and an epic swoon from John Tavares (9 points in 37 games from Dec. 14 to March 14). If the young center can maintain the point-per-game rate he posted in his other 45 games and the team gets consistent goaltending, there’s no reason to think they wouldn’t be able to sneak into the top eight teams in the East.

And while Tavares may not have the same supporting cast, another recent No. 1 overall pick shows such an improvement in Year 2 isn’t impossible.

Morning Links
  • The Winnipeg Free Press tells the tale of the Toews brothers, who want to renew their rivalry on the ice. David Toews, the Johnny Drama to Jonathan's Vinny Chase, was a third-round pick for the Islanders in the 2008 entry draft. The article tells about how he once beat his big bro at hockey in the backyard. Before Isles fans get too carried away with his talent, we should probably re-emphasize "once." But that Jonathan Toews kid is pretty sharp, what with his gold medal and Stanley Cup and all.
  • The Sporting News' Craig Custance hosted a round table discussion with NHL Network analyst Kevin Weekes (a vet of the Devils, Rangers and Islanders), Washington Capitals forward Brooks Laich and new Devils head coach John MacLean. Not that one. This one. The trio discussed this year's most-improved and potential surprise teams (Laich taps the Isles), as well as what it was like to take down Hans Gruber*. (* may not have actually been discussed ... but should have)
  • The Burlington Times News reports on a North Carolina politician who was supposed to actually wrestle an opponent on Saturday (scroll down). Why do you care? Because if the politician got pinned, he'd have to wear a Devils jersey and condemn the Carolina Hurricanes. North Carolina voters getting a dose of the hard hitting issues, indeed. You can see the results here.
  • NESN takes a look at the Devils today, noting that while the Devils could still be dangerous, they need Ilya Kovalchuk for the playoffs. We'll explore the money issues surrounding Kovalchuk on this blog later today.

SPONSORED HEADLINES