Devils Really Don’t Need Ilya Kovalchuk

NEWARK, NJ - APRIL 22: Ilya Kovalchuk of the New Jersey Devils handles the puck against Claude Giroux #28 of the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Prudential Center at on April 22, 2010 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

The Devils’ pursuit of Ilya Kovalchuk continues to reek of desperation.

The signing wouldn’t make sense in so many ways, yet the Devils seem determined to sign him.

First of all, there’s the cap space issue. The Devils will have to shed serious salary if they sign Kovalchuk.

It’s hard enough to dump salary in the NHL, but try unloading it if everyone in the league knows just how much you need to unload and when you need to unload it by. The Devils will have to give away players, just to get deals done. Otherwise, why would another NHL help out the Devils by taking salary off of the team’s hands?

And in terms of dumping salary, the Devils have eight no-trade clauses.

Even if the Devils get under by the first game of the 2010-11 season, they’ll probably still have to turn around and do the same thing to sign restricted free agent Zach Parise after that season.

Plus, a capped out team probably won’t be able to make any significant upgrades at the trade deadline, meaning the Devils better be strong out of the gate, because reinforcements probably aren’t coming.

Also, don’t forget how poorly Kovalchuk meshed with the Devils after he was acquired last season.

Devils GM Lou Lamoriello is banking that with time and exposure, the Devils and Kovalchuk will learn to work together. But Kovalchuk plays a game that’s fundamentally different from traditional Devils hockey. Plus, the logjam along the left side won’t help things as new coach John MacLean will have to spend an inordinate amount of time making sure Parise and Kovalchuk get enough ice time to be productive.

The signing would, in general, make things harder on MacLean. MacLean would be forced to deal with a very, very highly paid player who might not take to things like defense and reduced ice time.

Last season, coach Jacques Lemaire seemed content to leave Kovalchuk out on the ice for most of the duration of power plays. Would Kovalchuk bristle if MacLean decided to use two distinct power play units, one of which didn’t include Kovalchuk?

The Devils were a strong regular season team last year. They were bounced out of the playoffs due to rocky goaltending. A rested Martin Brodeur might have gotten the Devils past Philadelphia. A genuine top center also might have taken some of the pressure off of Brodeur, keeping his crease clear and helping out the defense down low.

But having Kovalchuk for the playoffs obviously didn’t help New Jersey. That’s not speculation — we have proof.

What does Lamoriello think will be different next year, with a shockingly similar line-up, or perhaps one even slightly weaker at the blue line?

And more importantly, why doesn’t Lamoriello want the team to have a top center?

Kovalchuk is an amazing player, but he’s not the right player for the Devils. Especially at the price he’ll reportedly get.

Lamoriello seems lost about how to get the Devils going again and he seems to be hoping throwing a lot of money at a player like Kovalchuk will somehow push New Jersey back into the Stanley Cup finals.

But this isn’t a financial issue, it’s a hockey issue. Lamoriello needs to focus on the players the Devils need, even if they don’t cost an insane amount of money.