What the Devil was he thinking?

Lou Lamoriello, President and General Manager of the New Jersey Devils, listens to a question at a...

Lou Lamoriello, President and General Manager of the New Jersey Devils, listens to a question at a news conference to announce the signing of Ilya Kovalchuk in Newark, New Jersey on July 20, 2010. (MIKE SEGAR/Reuters)

STEVE SIMMONS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:58 AM ET

The conspiracy theorists are out in full force after the controversial signing of Ilya Kovalchuk, many of whom are wondering what Lou Lamorielloís motivation was in signing Kovalchuk to a 17-year contract.

Considering Lamorielloís close professional relationship with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and his right hand man, Bill Daly, itís almost impossible to imagine that Lamoriello didnít know the league would object to the more than $100 million contract. In fact, many believe Lamoriello would have made the league aware of the deal before going public with the details.

Which begs the question: What exactly is Lamorielloís game here?

Was it to appease his ownership group who was more interested in the high-priced Kovalchuk than he might have been?

Was it to take Kovalchuk off the market, have the matter grieved, and then determine later if you can sign him for fewer dollars and fewer years?

Lamoriello is a league guy and a loyalist if nothing else. He was one of the league negotiators on this collective bargaining agreement. He is well aware the league pushed for maximum five-year contracts and seven-year contracts in the lockout deal but the Playersí Association refused to budge unless granted other terms. Having him battle the league now or take on the system is completely out of character and many in the hockey industry are wondering why.

This and that

Whatever it is about Alex Rodriguez, he just isnít warm and fuzzy. People donít feel for him the way they normally feel for players of his extreme talent. Never will a player reach the remarkable total of 600 home runs with such public ambivalence surrounding it ... Of the Top 7 home run hitters of all-time, three ó Rodriguez, Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa ó are stained by the steroids era. The other four: Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays and Ken Griffey Jr., remain untouched by Don Fehrís least favourite scandal ... The Maple Leafs are not in great shape salary cap-wise, unless theyíre willing to bite hard and bury Jeff Fingerís $3.5 million in salary in the minors and do the improbable and find a home for the overpaid Mikhail Grabovski. If they manage those two moves, that would provide them with more than $8 million in total cap room if they wanted to go after another front end player ... Team to watch: Vancouver Canucks. After Mason Raymondís arbitration goes through this week, and assuming the Canucks choose to sign the impressive winger, Vancouver will be upwards of $4 million over the salary cap. Which will make somebody available and fast.

Hear and there

Never mind that Lyle Overbay canít hit like a first baseman. One of the gifts left behind by the venerable J.P. Ricciardi is Overbayís substantial contract, which gives Overbay the ability to choose four major league teams he doesnít want to be traded to ... The impressive Canadian in the Tour de France is appropriately named Ryder Hesjedal ... The Argos are an impressive 3-and-1 not because of quarterback Cleo Lemon but in spite of him. The lack of quarterbacking play and the impressive work elsewhere only emphasizes the great job Jim Barker is doing as head coach and further, how out of his league Bart Andrus was a year ago ... Edmonton: Last in the NHL. Last in the CFL ... In each of the last three years Shawn Camp, Jason Frasor and Scott Downs have all looked like upper echelon big league relief pitchers. Just none of them in the same year as the others ... The always entertaining New York Islanders have fired the well-respected television analyst, Billy Jaffe, from their house broadcasts. The reason not given: Jaffe wasnít cheerleader enough for Islanders ownership ... The way Alex Anthopoulos operates expect the search to replace Cito Gaston as Blue Jays manager to be detailed and not necessarily predictable. Everything about the first-year GM smacks of preparation.

Scene and heard

A horror film coming to a basketball arena near you: The Summer of Bryan ... Just wondering: If Chris Paul wants out of New Orleans, it is too big a reach to try and send Andrea Bargnani to New Orleans for the game-changing point guard ... Time was Dave King coached at the University of Saskatchewan against George Kingston at Calgary, Clare Drake at Alberta and Wayne Fleming at Manitoba. We donít pay much attention to university hockey in this country, but maybe we should ... The ombudsman for ESPN has taken his own network to task for the LeBron James signing show. Don Ohlmeyer accused the network of ďpayingĒ for news and ďtrading inventory for access ... if that meant losing the exclusive, so be it.Ē ... Kind of sad, isnít it, in this summer of big basketball money, watching the centre who used to be Shaquille OíNeal going team to team, looking for a gig ... Bryan Colangelo was right about one thing: He said a bunch of teams that cleared cap space for this free agent frenzy would come away disappointed ó and the Knicks, Nets, and Wizards are among this summerís losers.

And another thing

The walls around Lance Armstrong are coming down. The Tour de France may end Sunday. But the investigation of Armstrong carries on ... I have now seen that ďmost interesting manĒ commercial so many times that the man isnít all that interesting any more ... If the Argos keep winning and the Ticats keep losing, it only adds to the usual fun that happens to be Labour Day football ... By the time you read this Ted Lilly could be pitching for a team other than the Chicago Cubs ... At 12-19, the Blue Jays have one of the worst records in baseball in one-run games ... Weather aside, canít think of a place Iíd rather be than Comerica Park this Sunday afternoon, for a good old-fashioned Jays-Detroit Tigers double header ... For the record, I donít know Steve Buffery. Never met the man ... Sam Mitchell got a lot of notice getting back in the NBA as an assistant coach in New Jersey. But what went mostly unnoticed: ex-Raptor Popeye Jones is also on that coaching staff ...

Toughest first-year job in sports may belong to Michael Faulds, the former Western quarterback, who has taken on the offensive coordinatorís position at York University ... Happy birthday to Steve Podborski (53), Ed Sprague (43), Tracy Murray (39), Pedro Martinez (39), Doug Drabek (48), Tony Granato (46) and Nate Thurmond (69) ... And hey, whatever became of Sharone Wright?

steve.simmons@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/simmonssteve


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