LeBron James Sweepstakes Even Touched NHL

Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James gives the double salute prior to the Cavaliers NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers in Cleveland in this January 21, 2010 file photo. James said Thursday he is leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers to join forces with fellow All-Stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh at the Miami Heat next season in the hope of winning an elusive NBA championship.   REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk  (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL IMAGES OF THE DAY)

I love how the LeBron James sweepstakes bled into the NHL.

First of all, I can’t help but think Ilya Kovalchuk’s contract demands are at least partially, and perhaps subconsciously, driven by the James’ free-agency.

You can’t help but think Kovalchuk’s camp sees parallels, what with their announcing dates when a decision will be made and their setting steep contract demands.

Of course, the huge difference is that Kovalchuk isn’t LeBron James. There are maybe two teams trying to sign Kovalchuk, and we’re not quite sure how serious the Devils and Kings really are (the Kings keep ending their pursuit of Kovalchuk, only to be drawn back in a day or so later, so I won’t count them as out until Kovalchuk has signed a contract someplace else).

But there’s a decent chance Kovalchuk will end up playing in Russia next season.

For crazy money, but not in the NHL, for whatever that’s worth to Kovalchuk.

Perhaps, though, just like part of the James mystique was his playing for his hometown team, maybe Kovalchuk will fulfil his hockey destiny playing for his home-country team.

Maybe at the end of the Kovalchuk saga, we’ll see he was more like James than we realized.

Over in Florida, the Panthers now have a ticket package called “Seats Fit for a King.” The package costs either $23 or $6, LeBron’s old jersey number and his new one.

I’m assuming James’ Heat jersey won’t start with a dollar sign, but that’s really not a given, is it?

In general, the James odyssey has made me a bit more grateful the NHL allows contracts of unlimited duration. It gives teams the ability to lock down players through their prime (and beyond) and I think most players will take security and relatively huge money over the chance to make perhaps slightly more money with less security.

The NHL’s crazy-long contracts are a bit of a joke and leave GMs with very little cap maneuverability, but at least they let teams hold onto players. I like that Alex Ovechkin will most likely always be a Capital. And even though the ability to give decades-long contracts more often than not handcuffs NHL teams, I think it’s a nice thing for the fans.

It gives them a sense of security, which is a rare thing in sports fandom.