Kovalchuk deals with the Devils
Lamoriello outbids NHL Kings, KHL for unrestricted free-agent winger
Forty-goal scorer Ilya Kovalchuk is more than a rental player in the eyes of Lou Lamoriello.
The New Jersey Devils general manager re-signed the unrestricted free agent on Monday, putting to rest rumours the left-winger would sign with Los Angeles or with the Continental Hockey League (KHL) in his native Russia.
"This was a long arduous process that has taken frankly a little longer than I thought," agent Jay Grossman said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "But you know what, nothing is worth anything unless you work for it. I can tell you he is very happy to be with the New Jersey Devils."
The deal reportedly is worth 17 years and around $102 million US.
Kovalchuk, 27, scored 41 goals and 85 points last season, split between the Atlanta Thrashers and Devils, who will hold a news conference Tuesday at 1 p.m. ET at Prudential Center.
Lamoriello acquired Kovalchuk on Feb. 4 along with defenceman Anssi Salmela for defenceman Johnny Oduya, forward Niclas Bergfors, junior prospect Patrice Cormier and a first-round draft pick.
The longtime GM felt he finally had the goal scorer needed to make a run at a fourth Stanley Cup since 1995.
But Kovalchuk, after scoring 10 goals and 27 points in 27 regular-season games for New Jersey, couldn't help the team out of the first round of the playoffs, finishing with six points in five contests against Philadelphia. He has only been to the playoffs twice, winning only one game.
Entering the off-season, many hockey observers believed Lamoriello wouldn't meet the financial demands of Kovalchuk and the player would be headed elsewhere this summer.
Spurned 2 offers
The Russian star made $7.5 million US last season and spurned a pair of offers from Atlanta — a seven-year deal worth $70 million US and a $101-million pact over 12 seasons — hoping to land a long-term contract worth $11 million annually.
Kovalchuk was courted by several teams, most recently the Devils and Kings, who reportedly were the front-runners after making several offers and hosting the flashy forward in a recruiting visit last week.
Grossman refused to say that Kovalchuk decided to stay because he felt the Devils had a better chance to win the Stanley Cup.
"This was so far complex that I don't want to get into those questions," Grossman said. "Obviously his goal is to win the Stanley Cup. If he didn't think there was an opportunity to do that, then he would not have gone there."
A perennial all-star and two-time 50-goal scorer, Kovalchuk has scored 40 or more goals in each of the last six seasons.
In eight NHL campaigns, the 2001 first overall pick has scored 338 career goals, including 117 on the power play, and 642 points in 621 regular-season games.
The Devils have been active since the playoffs ended. John MacLean was named the new coach, replacing Jacques Lemaire, who retired. The team reacquired veteran centre Jason Arnott in a trade and signed defencemen Henrik Tallinder and Anton Volchenkov, and goalie Johan Hedberg in free agency.
The only major loss has been defenceman Paul Martin, who signed with the Atlantic Division-rival Pittsburgh Penguins.
With files from The Associated Press