TORONTO - Ilya Kovalchuk didn’t think much of the Atlanta Thrashers for staying with them for eight years, but a few weeks in New Jersey and tens of millions of dollars seemed to have warmed him to the Devils’ den.
After rumours the 50-goal winger was going to the Los Angeles Kings or that the New York Islanders might make a surprise bid, the Devils are reportedly on the verge of a seven-year, $60-million US deal. It’s not the 10-year,
$100-million talk that started the day after free agency opened, but it’s in the ball park of at least one offer Kovalchuk turned down from Atlanta before getting traded north.
Kovalchuk must have decided the Devils represent his best chance at a Cup. The Thrashers have never won a playoff game, the Isles are still a few years away from contending and the Kings only got back into post-season action this year after waiting six seasons.
True, the Devils didn’t make it past one round with Kovalchuk, but that wasn’t just down to him. His 33 points in 32 overall regular season and playoff matches seemed to convince general manager Lou Lamoriello to open the vault, which is a rare occurance for the frugal GM.
The Blackhawks might have found their new Dustin Byfuglien. He’s 6-foot-8,
258-pound, free agent centre John Scott. A bit taller and heavier than Byfuglien, whom they dealt to Atlanta for salary cap relief.
Scott, a native of St. Catherines played part time the past two seasons for the Minnesota Wild, including 51 games last season with a goal, assist and 90 penalty minutes.
A few days ago, the Wild also lost 6-foot-8, 257-pound, Derek Boogaard to the New York Rangers.
The interesting part about Taylor Hall agreeing to his entry level contract on Monday is not the $900,000 base, but the $3 million it could turn into to if he hits certain performance bonuses ... While entertainment mogul Jerry Bruckheimer is still carrying a torch for the NHL to expand to Las Vegas, Los Angeles-based film producer Stephen Rollins is part of a group looking to buy into the Atlanta Thrashers. The Atlanta native, head of Lightning Pictures, told the Journal Constitution he is part of a wide investment group trying to get in the door. Current owners Atlanta Spirit have asked for investors ... The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports a plan afoot to make Evgeni Malkin or Jordan Staal a winger on one of the Penguins’ first two lines, creating a need for a third line centre. They have looked at Rob Niedermayer, but might also consider Dominic Moore, Jeff Halpern, John Madden and Ryan Johnson ... The Red Wings recognize that Nicklas Lidstrom will be 41 by the time the playoffs roll around again and will try to cut his minutes in the first half of the coming season. To that end, they’re looking for another veteran defenceman to play with Jonathan Ericsson so Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski aren’t over-taxed ... Bob Boughner, coach of the Memorial Cup champion Windsor Spitfires, will launch his NHL aspirations as Scott Arniel’s assistant on the Columbus staff ... The Dallas Stars will train in Charlottetown, P.E.I., in September, a nod to Murray Harbour native son Brad Richards ... The Flyers’ home is now the Wells Fargo Center. That’s four names in less than 14 years. CoreStates Center, First Union and then Wachovia with the latter bought out by Wells Fargo.