With Ilya Kovalchuk a healthy scratch for the New Jersey Devils' home game against the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night, the Hot Stove panel took a look at the decision to bench the $100-million US player and talk about how much playing time Vancouver's Roberto Luongo is getting.
Kovalchuk was scratched despite signing a $100-million, 15-year contract in the off-season after a similar deal was rejected by the NHL as a circumvention of its salary-cap rules.
"[Devils GM] Lou Lamoriello has gone into hiding at the rink," ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun said. "None of the local writers can find him, I've phoned him seven times since this has been announced, I phoned Ilya Kovalchuk and got his voicemail and texted Marty Brodeur to find out what's behind this.
"What we can gather at this point is that it's a coach's decision."
Considering all that signing Kovalchuk has cost the Devils — a $3-million fine and two high draft picks over the next four years — analyst Glenn Healy said the benching just doesn't make sense.
"They sat down Brodeur at the start of the game, he's in the net now — that's $11.2 million sitting in the stands," Healy said. "For Kovalchuk alone you've got to get 900 people to make their way to the swamp to pay $42,000 of his salary tonight … so he can sit in the stands with them?
"This is insane — [the contract] cost them draft picks, it cost them a fine, it cost them all kinds of years of cap management trouble and they're going to healthy scratch him? I don't get it."
Eric Francis of Sun Media said the move shows that, for better or for worse, Kovalchuk is regarded like any other player in the Devils lineup.
"He's not buying into their team concept, but that's why the deal never made sense for me in the first place. The New Jersey Devils are all about team concept and he's offensive minded, the team is defensive minded … he's not fitting into that dressing room and they decided to sit him to send a message."
The question remains whether the signing of the sniper was ownership and management at odds over the signing.
"I've talked to a couple of GM's that know Lamoriello well and they believe it was an owner's decision to sign [Kovalchuk]," LeBrun said.
"It wasn't an owner's decision to sit him tonight," Healy said.
Luongo getting too much rest?
On the other side of the continent, tongues have started to wag over how much Roberto Luongo has appeared in goal for the Vancouver Canucks — or rather, how little ice he's seen, not appearing in back-to-back games at home.
Francis said he spoke with Vancouver GM Mike Gillis and the message was clear — Luongo is to be kept fresh and rested and is expected to start about 60 games this year.
"They want him fresh for the playoffs because, like we've seen so many times in the playoffs, you've got to be fresh, you've got to be healthy and a lot of people think that Luongo's struggles in the playoffs the last couple years have stemmed from him playing too much," Francis said.
"That rest will do great for him down the road and [Canucks' backup Cory] Schneider is a goalie that can play and get your club 20 points and that will solidify a playoff spot and homeice advantage," Healy added.