NHL playing hardball with Kovalchuk Again; Torres signs with Canucks

Around the NHL
The New Jersey Devils and Ilya Kovalchuk have agreed to the framework of a new deal in the range of 12-13 years but at this time both sides are not able to push forward with the deal.
After Devils officials and agent Jay Grossman met with NHL officials on Monday, the NHL has not signed off on the framework of the deal nearly 48 hours later.
Discussions though are ongoing between officials from both sides. A league source told me earlier in the week that the framework of the new deal has Kovalchuk’s cap hit closer to $7 million than the previously $6 million cap hit for the 17 year – $102 million deal that was rejected.
League contacts are hinting the deal will be 12-13 years in the $84-$91 million range, which we reported on Monday.
The NHL is trying to put an end to deals longer than 10 years. The league is still probing the deals of Marian Hossa, Chris Pronger, Roberto Luongo and Marc Savard. The league’s focus is believed to be on the deals for Hossa and Luongo but the agents for both players are not cooperating.
However, don’t expect anything to happen on those fronts.
Torres signs one year deal with Canucks
Winger Raffi Torres is off the free agent market, agreeing to a one year deal worth $1 million with the Vancouver Canucks.
It was a long wait for Torres who is coming off a 19 goal – 36 point season. The 28 year old winger patiently waited out the market and in the end found what his camp believes is a great fit.
“Raffi actually began to start attracting interest from a few other teams in the past couple of weeks, agent Steve Reich told Inside Pittsburgh Sports this morning.
“Of those teams, Vancouver seemed to be the most committed to bringing him in. Raffi has always had success playing in that building and he loves the fact that he will be playing for a Stanley Cup contender in a city where hockey is the number one sport. They have a lot of great players for him to play with and we feel that if he plays to his abilities that it will be a place where he can play for several years after this year. It is a really good fit for him and we are excited for him.”
Torres drew interest from the Penguins at the March trade deadline but the Penguins were not a serious suitor for him this summer in free agency.
Other NHL News and Notes
The Tampa Bay Lightning have re-upped forward Steve Downie with a two-year extension worth 3.7 million. The forward had a career year last season, scoring 22 goals (46 pts) in his first year with the team. To go with his scoring, Downie, a former first-round pick of the Philadelphia Flyers, is noted for his toughness. The Lightning also signed free agent defenseman Randy Jones from the Los Angeles Kings today.
The Nashville Predators signed their leading scorer from a year ago to a three-year extension Wednesday. Patric Hornqvist gets a deal worth 9.25 million after putting up a career best 30 goals last season for the perennially offensively-challenged Predators (30 G, 21 A for 51 PTS with 10 PPG and a plus-18 rating in 09-10). Hornqvist is only 23 years old. It’ll be interesting to see whether 2010 was a true breakout season for the Swiss forward.
Former Canucks defenseman Willie Mitchell signed with the Los Angeles Kings Wednesday. The two-year deal is worth 7 million dollars. Mitchell played 48 games in a 2009-10 season limited by injury (concussion). At 33, Mitchell is a career plus-82 in 586 career games with four teams. For what its worth, signings like Mitchell, Ponikarovsky, et al would have been near-impossible had the Kings landed Ilya Kovalchuk. The Kings were the strongest suitor for the Russian forward behind New Jersey and perhaps the KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg. The Kings ended their pursuit of Kovalchuk after his initial 17-year signing with the Devils.
The Detroit Red Wings made a move for youth last week, re-signing forward Justin Abdelkader to a two-year extension. Abdelkader played in his first full season (50 games) last year with the Wings, and made his debut in the 2009 Stanley Cup finals, scoring two goals in the first two games against the Pens. Abdelkader had three goals and three assist last season but led the team with 152 hits.
Rules Changes, League Expansion?
Last week, the NHL Rules Committee voted to change the league’s overtime rules. Overtime will still be played the same, with a 5-minute period of four-on-four followed by a shootout (a 3-on-3 OT period was discussed.) What’s new is how an OT win will be counted in a team’s record. Since the lockout, all wins were weighted evenly – regulation, overtime and shootout.
Under the new policy, in a head-to-head tiebreak situation, regulation and overtime wins will present the first tier of a team’s win column, with shootout wins coming into question if the first tier remains a tie. Call it the New York Rangers Rule, as the Rangers were eliminated on the final game of the season in a shootout loss to Philadelphia. The rule will lend greater weight to even-strength wins, though the shootout will not lose its place in regular season games.
Another push for Canadian NHL expansion has been made, at least initially. City Leaders in Quebec City are pushing Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to greenlight the construction of a new arena in the city. The hope is to lure an expansion or relocated NHL team back to the city, as well as strengthen the city’s bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics. The new arena could cost north of 400 million dollars, according to THN.com. During the World Hockey Summit, NHL Commish Gary Bettman made the comment that no new Quebec team would be considered at all without a new arena to put them in. The city has been without an NHL franchise since 1995, when the Nordiques left town and became the Colorado Avalanche.
Chicago Blackhawks signed former Edmonton forward Fernando Pisani to a one-year deal worth 500,000 dollars. The signing is a depth move. Pisani had eight points last season for the basement-dwelling Oilers, and has played a career plagued by injury.
Veteran defenseman Aaron Ward retired this week. The 37 year-old veteran decided to retire after undergoing his third knee surgery, first this summer, and learning he would not be ready to play by opening day. Ward, a three-time cup winner, split time between Anaheim and Carolina. The defenseman won three cups, two with Detroit and one with Carolina, playing 839 career games with five teams.
Forward Ben Guite signed a one-year deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets after splitting time between the Nashville Predators and their AHL affiliate last season. Guite was pointless in six games with the Predators last season.
The Atlanta Thrasher signed RFA Freddie Meyer last week. The formers Islanders defenseman had 15 points in 64 games last season.
Tampa Bay forward Vincent Lecavalier underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee last week, but is expected to report to the team’s training camp when it opens on September 17. Philadelphia defenseman Chris Pronger underwent minor knee surgery a few weeks ago, and no timetable has been set for Pronger’s return.
Tomas Kaberle may be one of the bigger stories this offseason if not for the drama surrounding Ilya Kovalchuk. After failing to be dealt before his no-trade clause kicked in, Kaberle has said he would welcome a trade sometime this coming season. Leafs coach Ron Wilson is reportedly trying to reach out to Kaberle, whose father was quoted recently as saying he would not return to the team after this season, citing differences with the head coach. If Kaberle stays put, it wouldn’t be the worst thing for Toronto, who would host a blueline consisting of Kaberle, Dion Phaneuf and Francois Beauchemin, among others.
—James Conley also contributed to this report———–

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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