10:30 pm: Katie Strang of Newsday reports that the Islanders are out of the Ilya Kovachuk sweepstakes (subscription required). She writes: “It is believed that while the Islanders’ interest was legitimate, they never entered a serious stage of discussion with Kovalchuk’s camp nor made an offer.”
Garth Snow told Newsday, “We have interest in the top free agents now and we will in the future.”
For the Islanders, it’s on to a possible agreement with Matt Moulson before he goes to arbitration (he filed today). Prospect camp starts for the Islanders on Wednesday.
This Live Blog will self-destruct at some point on Tuesday morning.
11:30 am, Monday: After more than 60 hours of rumor, innuendo, some hilarious commentary in the U.S. and Canada and some strategical stretching of the truth, there is very little left to report or to say.
Some time, as early as this afternoon, but possibly not for another week or so, Ilya Kovalchuk is going to sign a contract with a hockey team. It will be with a team in the NHL, not the KHL, as I’ve written consistently here and at FanHouse.
Oh, there could be a report – leaked, of course – about an Islanders meeting with Kovalchuk. Rumors of other teams, not the Kings (still in it), Islanders and Devils will emerge. All of it may be fun July reading. Little of it will matter until the final decision.
If this sounds like I’m personally getting out of the Ilya Kovalchuk sweepstakes, you would be correct. There simply is not much to cover anymore. Agent Jay Grossman, whom I know fairly well, is a private man and professional. You have not seen him quoted once since July 1. Garth Snow, whom I used to work with, does a good job of keeping his team’s business quiet – the Hamhuis/Martin/Friday Night Lights show notwithstanding. When Garth has something big to say, he’ll almost certainly tell it (with good reason) to the one media outlet that covers his team 365 days a year.
This site has covered all it could. Around everything else I need to turn my attention to personally and professionally, I hope to have a few stories from the Islanders’ prospect camp – open Wednesday and closed to the general public except for a scrimmage on Saturday night at the Coliseum. (Tickets are $10. Go to the team site for details).
When Kovalchuk finally chooses the Islanders or another team, I expect to hear it from a Point Blank reader first. So…
One more time with feeling…
- There has never been an offer of $100 million for ten years. There doesn’t have to be for the Islanders to sign Kovalchuk.
- The Islanders’ interest is tied in large part to the plight of the Lighthouse Project. Kate Murray’s cut-rate vision for the project will be unveiled any day now. There’s an excellent chance the Town of Hempstead and Kovalchuk stories – for better and worse – could collide on the same day.
- The Islanders’ interest in Kovalchuk is serious, professional and on-going. There has been contact with agent Jay Grossman beyond Garth Snow’s claim of just one preliminary call at 9:00 pm on Friday.
- If the Islanders really want Kovalchuk, they can sign him.
Thanks for hanging with me these last few days. The next post in this live blog with be Kovalchuk’s destination.
7:10 pm: The LA Times reports that the Kings are out, no longer willing to satisfy Ilya Kovalchuk‘s demands. But, of course, they are not 100% out.
Imagine you’re LA general manager Dean Lombardi. You’re negotiating privately, and then all of a sudden reports come seemingly out of nowhere late Friday night about the Islanders. About ten years and $100 million. If half the hockey world is skeptical, how do you think Lombardi felt.
The Kings, like everyone else, is positioning. Lombardi is saying two can play that game. You know that if Jay Grossman calls him back, the GM is going to take the call. Lombardi is a smooth operator. For the time being, he has decided he didn’t want to be operated on.
Nevertheless, this is good news for the Islanders, Devils and any other teams interested in adding the supreme goal scorer to their roster. Lombardi claims the Kings are out. Garth Snow is only on record as saying the Islanders are in.
2:45 pm, Sunday: On this beautiful Fourth of July, there is only one thing to know about the Islanders and Ilya Kovachuk. If Charles Wang really wants the all-star right wing, he can get him.
Kovalchuk has yet to be blown away by any offers. If he was, most notably from Los Angeles and New Jersey, he would have signed by now. Wang and the Islanders have the cap floor space. This is the money they are going to have to spend anyway. Are they going to spread it around instead to more third-liners and fifth defensemen? If the Islanders truly have the desire to make Kovalchuk a Lighthouse Project impact statement and a Roman Candle to the slow and steady rebuild, they can.
There is no offer of $100 million for ten years. There doesn’t have to be. What Wang and Garth Snow must produce – again, if they want Kovalchuk in the orange and blue for his prime years – is an offer Kovalchuk and Jay Grossman cannot refuse. Make them an offer so strong, the agent wouldn’t waste his time shopping it to Lou Lamoriello and Dean Lombardi. Make them an offer max-capppers like Paul Holmgren and Glen Sather could not even try to match.
It doesn’t have to be for $10 million a year.
For now, enjoy your Fourth of July. Maybe the Fifth, too. There will probably be just two more entries in this running live blog: a final thought tomorrow, and then – whenever it may be – the news of Kovalchuk’s destination (if I’m around a computer when Katie or Dregs or Pierre or Larry or someone else breaks it).
Time will tell why Wang authorized Snow to confirm to the media on Friday night that he made the phone calls to Grossman. For what it’s worth, I don’t know if the Islanders will land the big fish – four out of five top-level reporters surveyed say Ilya will go to LA – but I’m confident that Wang’s interest in Kovalchuk is pure and legitimate.
All anyone needs to know is, if he wants to be All Ilyalanders, Charles Wang can make it happen.
12:15 am, Saturday: Oh yeah, this is already in the nutso stage. The Kovalchuk-Islanders blockbuster reports first crashed Twitter at 10:15 tonight. In a story just posted at Newsday, the very reliable Katie Strang has Garth Snow on the record saying he only made a “preliminary” call around 9:00 tonight. Amazing how one preliminary call led to reports of the Islanders considering offers of $100 million less than an hour and a half later.
My information, as written at FanHouse, is that Snow’s first inquiry about Kovalchuk came earlier than tonight. Oh no, I may get hit with another “totally ficticious” label.
12:35 am: Interesting that, just as Kovalchuk-to-the-Islanders hysteria sweeps the land, Garth Snow dials it down in his interview with Newsday, saying his contact was merely doing “due diligence.” This is not what others have been told.
1:15 am: It’s not like the Islanders are playing around to drive up the price for a rival like the Rangers. The biggest bidder is likely Los Angeles. Knowing the respect Garth Snow has for Lou Lamoriello, he also wouldn’t be looking to totally screw over the Devils. Again, I cannot see the Islanders taking their fans down this path and falling way short.
1:40: Probably the last note for the night, since I’m fairly certain the Islanders’ executive offices at the Coliseum emptied out long ago. Not to be Captain Obvious, but it should be understood that anything that has happened and will happen regarding the Islanders and Ilya Kovalchuk, is all from Charles Wang. The owner negotiated Alexei Yashin’s contract, he proposed the idea for the landmark deal for Rick DiPietro. Today, he is as involved as he ever has been. Fact: he worked the draft table last weekend as much as any of the scouts.
No, Garth Snow did not wake up on Friday morning and think, “Here’s an idea: let’s see what it would take to sign Kovalchuk”! No matter how this Ilya adventure plays out, know for better or for worse that this is the work of Charles Wang.
****(On a personal note, my family finally moves into a new home on Saturday. I’ll get on this story as much as I can, so I’m sure you’ll regularly check your other main sources. Hey, when I got married, it turned out to be between rounds 1 and 2 of the ’93 playoffs. We thought the date was safe when we booked it).
9:15 am: Did that all really happen last night? Helene Elliott writing the Islanders are close to a deal with Ilya Kovalchuk…Darren Dreger saying the Islanders are willing to bid huge…Garth Snow confirming to Pierre LeBrun that his team is in play…Twitter exploding at 10:15, yet Garth telling Newsday he only made an initial, “preliminary” call at 9:00…The email I received and subsequent conversations with insiders telling me the Islanders began reaching out to agent Jay Grossman way before 9:00 Friday night.
Yes, I guess it did. Sobering up (I mean me), the estimable Dreger still thinks Kovalchuk is going to LA.
As I’m sure most of you know, there comes a point when reporters start asking colleagues questions of insiders on background. I woke up this morning to several texts, emails and Twitter DMs from writers, talk show hosts and studio analysts are asking a varation on this:
Are the Islanders really in on Kovalchuk, or is this just an agent creating a marketplace?
My answer: Garth Snow is on record saying they are. If it turns out to just be transparent PR shenanigans to help an agent, give another team psuedo competition or a lame attempt to make themselves look good, the Islanders would be crucified.
No, I really find it hard to believe that’s the game the Islanders are playing. I thought the leaking of supposedly strong offers for Martin and Hamhuis was beyond lame – and getting agents to back them up – was sadly obvious and regrettable. But that’s old news. The Islanders are in play for a six-time 40-goal scorer now, not a pair of unfalsh defensemen. No way they do this to their fanbase.
9:20: Correction to what I’m seeing from commenters: agent Grossman has not created the buzz about his client to the Islanders. Garth Snow went on record to ESPN confirming he is in play for Kovalchuk. That’s the buzz.
12:48, The New Home Office: This might not seem like much, but I feel that it is. More than 14 hours after the news first broke on Twitter about the Islanders being interested in Ilya Kovalchuk, there has been a record amount of guesses advertised as breaking-news and a few lies told for the benefit of positioning.
All that said, know this about the Islanders’ interest in Kovalchuk: it is legitimate and sincere. It is also on-going. Maybe three people associated with the Islanders are in on it. You know who they are: Charles Wang, Garth Snow and possibly a capologist/numbers cruncher. By now, you should know the notion of a coaching staff and scouts sitting around the Coliseum going, “Hmm…let’s see…do we want Kovalchuk? What impact would he have on our young players? What would our top lines look like?”…let’s just say – like the drafting of Kirill Kabanov, that’s not what’s going on.
Of course, Charles Wang should be involved in this one. You’re looking at a transaction of somewhere between $50 and $120 million – all of it his money.
Bottom line, the Islanders are in this to sign Ilya Kovalchuk. More on this later. I have at least one significant tidbit of information I’d like to get confirmation on from a second source. Confident I will.
4:45 pm: Is it worth tens of millions of dollars to Charles Wang to announce the acquisition of a franchise-shifting NHL all-star like Ilya Kovalchuk during a week when Kate Murray is expected to unveil her vision for what can be developed on the Nassau Coliseum property? It very well could be.
Sources confirm that the Islanders’ pursuit of the two-time 50-goal scorer is inextricably linked to the status of the Lighthouse Project. As much as the Islanders know how much the addition of Kovalchuk will lead to victories on the ice – for the cost of a contract, not players and draft picks – Wang sees his acquisition as the ultimate statement in the battle to obtain off-the-charts Islanders fan support and convince the Town of Hempstead to work with him and keep the Islanders in Nassau County. Build the team, and they will come.
In other words, the initial tweet of TSN’s Darren Dreger – “Wang needs more star power to get his arena project pushed forward” – was dead-on.
Now the question is, what is Kovalchuk’s timing versus Wang’s? Can Kovalchuk and his agent wait for Wang’s offer, or does he take the best offer in the next day or so from Los Angeles or New Jersey or any other mystery teams out there? Kovalchuk and agent Jay Grossman appear to be taking their time. Kovalchuk is by far the best free agent forward available – and is arguably superior to anyone available on the open market a year from now, it’s worth pointing out.
(To be clear, despite reports of the Islanders already having $100 million for ten years on the table for Kovalchuk, I have not confirmed the existence of a solid offer by the team.)
Consistent with how the Islanders played negotiations with Dan Hamhuis and Paul Martin, details of the Islanders’ offer will eventually be made known to a media outlet. This time, the Islanders hope it comes with the successful reeling in of the biggest fish in this year’s market.
Make no mistake: the timing of the Kovalchuk/Islanders news with Supervisor Murray’s any-day-now Lighthouse push-back is the story here. To Wang and the Islanders, Kovalchuk is about winning hockey games and taking a leap in what was a slow and steady rebuild. But he’s about so much more.
Entries from Friday Night into Saturday Morning
10:30 pm: Well, this is fascinating, no matter how it shakes out. Just as I’m alerted to Darren Dreger’s tweet about the Islanders supposedly making a push for Ilya Kovalchuk, I notice the highly-respected Helene Elliott of the LA Times tweets something similar. Worth noting that Helene writes about the Kings, considered one of the frontrunners for Kovalchuk.
So I sit down to write about this for Point Blank, and I get this email from a major power broker in the industry:
Just a heads up, Wang and Snow are making a huge push to grab Kovalchuk. They are $9M under the floor and Charles believes signing Kovy will be the catalyst for finally getting the Lighthouse approved.
Pretty wild. Guy has my cellphone number. Sends an email to the Point Blank web address. To be candid with you, I love the guy, but for a second it sorta felt like I was being played. Turns out I wasn’t.
Because then Garth Snow texted Pierre LeBrun to confirm the Islanders are bidding for Kovalchuk.
What does it all mean? Well, for starters, Kovalchuk and his agent, Jay Grossman, now may have an additional bidder for the star’s services.
If you’re an Islanders follower, you have to be intrigued. If Charles Wang was okay with giving $30 million to an unflashy defenseman like Dan Hamhuis, what’s $80 million for an every-season 40-goal scorer?
10:55 pm: Here’s what I’m wrestling with. I love Kovalchuk as a player. Would be ecstatic if he came here for Charles Wang’s money. Even acknowledging the Islanders would be better, does Ilya Kovalchuk get a $4 billion mega real estate development done?
The timing is fascinating. This comes out on a Friday night, Fourth of July weekend, when Kate Murray’s vision for the Lighthouse is expected to be unveiled any day now.
11:38: As I just wrote on Twitter, I don’t see the Islanders taking their fans down this road and then coming up way short. Charles Wang knows he cannot do that. So does Garth.
11:40: Working on a story for FanHouse, with some new information, that should be up around midnight. Will link here, and start new entries at the top of this post.