By Katie Strang
Ilya to the Island? Not quite.
Although the ongoing saga for the summer’s hottest free agent-- Ilya Kovalchuk—has yet to be resolved, one thing is certain: the 27-year-old Russian sniper will not be signing with the Islanders.
An Islanders-bound Kovalchuk would’ve undoubtedly been general manager Garth Snow’s biggest splash to date, but it appears he may not have gone far beyond dipping his toes into the water.
It is believed that while the Islanders’ interest was legitimate, they never entered a serious stage of discussions with Kovalchuk’s camp nor made an offer. Contrary to reports that the Islanders lobbed a 10-year, $100-million dollar Hail Mary to entice Kovalchuk to Uniondale, a short-term deal was their plan had negotiations advanced.
Considering Kovalchuk had more attractive long-term options on the table, however, the Islanders never moved past the exploratory stage of discussions.
“I’d rather keep those conversations between Jay [Grossman] and myself,” Snow said, when asked for comment.
Snow did say, however, that he’d be crazy to not show interest in Kovalchuk--who has 338 goals and 304 assists in 621 career games—and has no reservations about making inquiries on him or for pursuing premier defensemen Dan Hamhuis and Paul Martin last week.
“When there are top free agents available, we’re going to go after them,” Snow said. “Obviously, if we make the call, we have interest. We have interest in the top free agents now and we will in the future.”
Although one potential suitor has now been ruled out, the speculation about where the star winger will end up continues despite reports Monday that indicated Kovalchuk was on the verge of re-signing with the Devils and inking a deal worth $60 million over 7 years.
Beyond the Devils and the Islanders (not to mention the lingering KHL option), the Kings were also among the teams interested in Kovalchuk. Los Angeles was even considered by many to be the early front-runner, until Kings general manager Dean Lombardi announced they were out of the mix Sunday night.
Anticipation peaked early Monday afternoon when Kovalchuk’s agent Jay Grossman announced that his landing spot would soon be revealed.
“Ilya Kovalchuk looking to make decision on his future today,” Grossman announced on his Twitter account, although that scenario never came to fruition.
Grossman, who could not be reached for comment, then took to his Twitter account to provide an update on his client’s situation again Monday night.
“Ilya Kovalchuk choices have been narrowed down. Details to be finalized but no announcement tonight…”
The hockey world awaits as the Kovalchuk drama is still unfolding. But at least one team can now be crossed off that list.
Notes and Quotes: Islanders restricted free agent Matt Moulson filed for arbitration Monday, his agent Wade Arnott. Moulson confirmed. Moulson, 26, led the team with 30 goals last season. Arbitration begins later this month.