Devils working on revamped deal for Kovie

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:34 PM ET

Is a slimmed-down version of the Ilya Kovalchuk contract almost ready to be squeezed through tight inspection by the National Hockey League?

There was a Monday meeting in the league’s New York office involving New Jersey Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek, general manager Lou Lamoriello, Kovalchuk’s agent Jay Grossman and league officials.

“There was no new contract submitted,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told reporters in Toronto on Monday night. “We talked conceptually.”

It’s thought that the ground rules have now been set for the Devils to present such an offer to Kovalchuk, possibly in the next 24 to 48 hours.

The first contract, a front-loaded $102-million US, 17-year deal, which stretched a CBA cap hit loophole further than anyone had attempted, was rejected by an arbitrator last month. It then became known that several other long-term deals with money up front were under league scrutiny, even though they had already been paid out for a year.

When Kovalchuk’s deal was turned down, there was a great amount of speculation regarding Lamoriello’s motive for offering such big bucks, a move very uncharacteristic of his conservative fiscal nature. But it’s believed that Devils’ ownership, anxious to land a recognized scorer to fill the new Prudential Center as the Marty Brodeur era winds down, pressed the GM to make a splash.

Los Angeles Kings GM Dean Lombardi was thought to be in the same boat with his bosses, but Kovalchuk turned down a big offer from the Kings, opting for the club that traded for him late last season.

By giving Kovalchuk a token $550,000 salary in the final years of the first deal, Lamoriello set the table to re-sign young sniper Zach Parise. But while the question of Kovalchuk remaining a Devil now seems to be settled, the team must now go through some more cap hoops to bring in Parise.

Black and Blues

With the Phoenix situation far from settled, now the Blues could go deep into the new season unsure of who will finance as much as 75% of the ownership pie after TowerBrook Capital Partners announced in May it was divesting its huge share.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports Towerbook has agreed not to pull their money until owner Dave Checketts gets a new investor. But even though the private equity firm was expected to pull out any time after its fourth year of involvement elapsed in June, an extended wait to settle Blues’ ownership is another brushfire the league doesn’t need. The Blues say they have some interested parties in the tire-kicking stage.

Twitter flitter

Though NHL tough guys Cam Janssen and Krys Barch might have sounded like a couple of twits when they tweeted back and forth about fighting each other in a future game, the agent for both players says it was in jest and not a serious pre-meditated invite to rumble.

“It was playful banter between two guys in the dead part of the summer,” said Chicago-based agent Scott Norton told the Toronto Sun on Monday night. “I read what they tweeted, they weren’t trying to set up a fight. People just used their imaginations about that.”

Yahoo Sports posted an account of the exchange, with Janssen of the

St. Louis Blues tweeting, “Hey (Krys), no more D.J. King here this year so maybe you and I could get to know each other better?”

Barch, of the Dallas Stars, accepted with an eye to the

Oct. 16 meeting of the teams in Texas.

“As soon as the story was posted, I got a call from someone saying ‘(commissioner) Gary Bettman will have a field day with this,’ ” Norton said. “But I have not heard anything. Are they going to fight in their careers? Probably. If it happens, it happens.”

But Norton said he wasn’t about to restrict the use of the social messaging outlet.

“Twitter is a big part of the world today and I probably have more clients on it than anyone else,” Norton said. “You get your name out there, increase interest in the sport and I think it’s great for the fans. I think this league should want it.”

Ice Chips

The idea of trying bigger nets at last week’s NHL research and development camp was nixed in favour of a more shallow frame at tbe back that will supposedly encourage more wraparound goal attempts ... Blues’ career leading scorer Brett Hull will have his statue unveiled in front of the Scottrade Center before the season opener on Oct. 9, joining hall of famers Al MacInnis and Bernie Federko in bronze ... Former Whalers owner Howard Baldwin hasn’t given up the ship. Hoping to lure the NHL back to Hartford 13 years after the team moved to Carolina, Baldwin has an outdoor hockey festival in the works for February. That comes on the heels of inviting Gordie Howe and more than 20 ex-Whalers back this month for a nostalgic reunion with fans... USA Hockey has picked Cole Burkhalter of Knoxville, Tenn., to receive the first ever Brendan Burke Internship, honouring the son of the Leafs GM Brian Burke, who died in a car accident earlier this year while working as a hockey team manager for Miami (Ohio) University ... The Chicago Blackhawks have reportedly made the move everyone was expecting over the summer, finding another circuit for goaltender Cristobal Huet. According to the Swiss website 20 Minutes Online, the Blackhawks will loan the Frenchman to Fribourg-Gotteron of the Swiss League for the 2010-11 season. The move allows them to bring in Marty Turco ... The Detroit Red Wings and left winger Justin Abdelkader agreed to terms on a two-year contract ... The Atlanta Thrashers have re-signed forward Bryan Little to a multi-year contract.

lance.hornby@sunmedia.ca


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