|Posted by Brendan Munro on March 8, 2012 at 9:45 PM|
Are the Devils getting full value for Kovalchuk? Are you?
When Ilya Kovalchuk signed in New Jersey prior to the start of last season, many people, including myself, were firmly convinced that Lou Lamoriello had gone mad. While Kovalchuk's all-world talent was never in dispute, the sheer weight of his contract – a 17 year, $102 million deal – combined with speculation about his lack of compete and teamwork made it seem like the Devils would never get full value for their investment. In fact, it seemed unlikely that he would even be able to live up to the lofty expectations during the first few years of the deal, let alone the ones during the declining years of his career.
The doubters, myself included, seemed to be vindicated halfway through last season, as the Devils were mired in the league's basement and Kovalchuck – on pace for under 20 goals – seemed like a shadow of his former self. The season was salvaged when Kovalchuk got hot, starting with a pair of goals (his 10th and 11th) in a 5-2 win over Tampa bay. Kovalchuk's hot streak coincided with a massive surge by the Devils that for a while made it seem like the playoffs were actually in reach.
As the 2012 season began, no one could be sure which version of the sniper would show up: the one that languished through the first half of 2010-2011 or the one that scored 21 goals in three months of work during the second half. Taking Kovalchuk in your fantasy pool was a high risk strategy. Sixty games into this season, we seem to have a repeat performance on our hands. While starting a bit tepidly, the enigmatic Russian has raced away to 26 points in his last 18 games, including a hat-trick on Thursday night. With 67 points on the season, Kovalchuk is back amongst the leagues top ten in scoring. Until recently, you might have felt a bit burnt if you picked him in the first round of your fantasy league. He's been a killer acquisition if you got him in the second or third round or if you somehow landed him via trade, and if you held on to him all year, you're probably feeling like you're finally getting some value from him. Chances are Lamoriello and the Devils are also feeling the same way.