Domebeer-aholics, we love us some Ilya Kovalchuk. Dude is 6"2, 230 pounds of Soviet skill. The guy is a bad man on the ice, with two seasons of 50 goals or more since the lockout. Fifty. Goals.
But Ilya isn't without his detractors. Some people say he is soft. Some people say he is good, but he doesn't really improve his team. Those people are wrong, but in Canada, you are still allowed your opinions, Orwellian 'human right courts' notwithstanding.
Why all this Ilya talk? Because, as you are no doubt aware, Ilya is a free agent. This means that some team is about to drop a dump truck full of money on the cat. Dropping dump trunks full of the owners money on cats makes some people uncomfortable. These people need to be talked into it. Let's help them.
Where to begin? The beginning, of course. Ilya was an Atlanta Thrasher. He was offered $100 million dollars ($10 million a season over 10 years) to stay an Atlanta Thrasher. Ilya turned down the contract, and was traded. Think about that for a moment. This guy was offered $100 million dollars to stay with the team that had drafted and developed him, and he turned it down. Atlanta sucks so much, $100 million dollars couldn't keep Ilya on that roster. And you thought Sutter was doing a bad job of team building.
Ilya was traded to a stacked New Jersey Devil team, and because of ego's and emotions, that team would go on to tank in the playoffs. Now, some people point to the performance of the Devils in the playoffs and say 'see, this guy isn't worth it'. We don't really see how Langenbrunner's locker room destroying pout-fest reflects on Ilya.
Anyways...now that the season is over, Ilya is UFA. How much is Ilya going to get paid? Ilya was on a contract that saw him make $31,946,500 over 5 years. He is going to make more than that the second time around, but that works to give us a base onto which we can build our projections.
Notable contracts given to wingers? Gaborik just got paid, to the tune of $37.5 million dollars over 5 years. Heatley was awarded a 6 year, $45 million dollar contract a few years ago, and we also have Vaneks 7 year, $50 million dollar contract to use as a gauge as well. Of course, everybody knows about Jaromes 5 year, $35 million dollar contract.
Hey, you know what would be fun? If somebody compared those players! In chart form! Hurray!
Even Strength Scoring, Qualcom:
Yee boyee. We charted the shit outta that motherfucker. But what do any of these numbers mean?
Contract wise, we think it would be safe to assume that the guy is going to want more than Jarome's $35 million, so we could probably set that as the bare minimum floor number. We look at Gaborik's contract, and we assume that Ilya is going to want more than that. The top paid forward in the league, Ovie, is a cap hit of $9.538 million dollars. Will Ilya be able to command more than the Great Chocking 8? We doubt it. The next highest paid wingers in the league are Heatley and Gaborik, at cap hits of $7.5 million dollars.
Is Ilya going to ask for more than his fellow countryman Malkin? Malkin and Crosby both are cap hits of 8.7 million, but they are also much younger than Ilya, who himself is only 27 years old. They are also both centres, which teams will pay a premium for. Just ask the Coyotes.
Of course, these are cap hit numbers. Would it be that crazy for Ilya to demand 50 million over 5 years? It would be a cheaper contract than Ovie's or Malkin's, but it would be a higher cap number, so Ilya's agent could feel good. We wonder...
Ilya's counting stats are eye-popping. The guy produces, albeit in the worst division in hockey. His numbers put him into the elite goal scorer category, alongside fellow Atlanta refugee Heatley, and also up there with Gaborik. He is also a durable player. Post lockout, he has played in 100 more games than Gaborik, and seems much less likely to get hurt and miss significant time. Really, all of these players, save Gaborik, are pretty durable.
But counting stats, like teenage girls, can be misleading (pedophile joke!). The second assist really gets our gears going, making the whole stat, to us, almost useless. Goals don't tell you when they happened, on the PP, at ES, or shorthanded. They tell you some things, for sure. Bums aren't PPG players over one season, let alone five. But they don't tell you everything.
So we took a look at Ilya's even strength numbers. Production 5 on 5 is priceless. If you have a team that only seems to be able to score on the PP, that means you have a team with a very limited window to generate offence. If your team can score 5 on 5, that means you have a 60 minute window with which you can generate offence.
And Ilya's ES numbers, even though this is only one season of them, are fucking outstanding. 29 goals on the ES is nothing to sneeze at. It is in the top 5 in the league (he is 4th, Gaborik is 5th). Of the 5 guys we are looking at, he missed the least with his shot, although he did generate the second least. The guy is a sniper.
Now, some of you will immediately point to the Qualcom (Quality of Competition). Let us just say this: the Qualcom is not, we believe, based solely on ES play. We put it up with our ES chart because we were lazy. But we still think it can show things. Like, namely, Gaborik is a beast. Qualcom works by taking the PPG numbers of the people your player is on the ice against. A higher number means that the player is playing against guys who have higher PPG, which should translate into meaning the player is playing against tougher players. Still with us? Good. Gaboriks 0.143 is actually really, really high. Ilya's 0.033 isn't terrible, but it isn't in 'elite' territory, either.
Now, there are problems with Qualcomp. The main problem being is that if you play in a weak division, with weak players on the teams in those divisions, then your Qualcomp number will be lower. We suspect Ilya's low number probably reflects his time spent with the Thrashers. It may not, but it is something we think you should think about when reading the chart. Of course, with that said, when your Qualcomp number is lower than Jarome's...
What is Ilya worth? He is worth whatever some owner pays him. What could he be asking for? In a sane world, we think $50 million dollars wouldn't be out of the question. He is more durable than Gaborik, and scores just about as much as Heatley. Heatley was awarded $45 million in 08-09. Adjust for inflation, and you are looking at $47 million. Ilya is going to want to make a splash, so bump it up to $50 million, just for a nice number on the press release. And amortized over 5 years, you also get to call yourself the 'highest paid player in the league', at least when it comes to the cap.
Of course, that doesn't bold well for our dream of seeing the cat play in Calgary. Maybe he is big into the Rodeo.
Furthermore, I think Peter Loubardias should be fired.