Okay, they’re comparable situations. Both are elite level players and the most coveted free-agents available in their respective leagues. Both are/were considering their previous club and another, perhaps more attractive club. Both have been involved in a fairly public and drawn out negotiating process.
However, there are some key differences here. While Lebron has drawn a lot of ire, it’s mostly from Cleveland fans who feel abandoned and like he was being disloyal. Is that a valid feeling? Probably. Ilya doesn’t have that same problem. He only played about a quarter of a season with his former team (assuming Atlanta isn’t in the mix), which means New Jersey wouldn’t feel too irked if he signed elsewhere. In a way, it’s a pressure that Kovalchuk didn’t have to deal with.
Many NBA fans felt it was a foregone conclusion that LeBron would sign with Miami, going back to his collusion with Bosh and Wade. In the case of Kovalchuk, no one knows what will happen. It seems like one day L.A. is in the lead and the next it’s New Jersey, or the Isles, or someone else. Every other day it’s a whole new story.
The Kovalchuk drama will likely end with him putting a pen to paper. Your average hockey fan will check the internet and say “Oh, he signed with _____. Finally that’s over.” In the case of LeBron, well, expect him to be booed relentlessly every time he sets foot on the parquet in Cleveland. Kovalchuk the free-agent will just go back to being Kovalchuk the hockey player.
While I can’t say this for sure, I highly doubt the Kovalchuk saga will be highlighted by an hour long special on ESPN. It will not be on national news, and I will not hear about it on NPR during my morning commute. Although Ilya’s visit to Los Angeles is unorthodox, it would severely undermine any drama of him signing with the Kings. It’s not a PR stunt, it’s simply a good player taking a lot of time to decide on what team he wants to lump his chances of winning a Stanley Cup with. Only 1 team wins each year, and with 30 choices it can be daunting.
Eric Duhatschek over at Globe and Mail makes an excellent point, “However this plays out, Kovalchuk’s next deal will likely be his last one, a lifetime commitment to his next city and team of employ.” When you put it like that, 12 days of thinking doesn’t seem like that much time to think over your next 10, 15, or maybe 17 years. Not to mention a career you’ll look back on for a lifetime.
As always, check me out on Twitter @EricCooney.
About the Author
Written by Eric Cooney
Eric Cooney was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina, and lives in Los Angeles, CA. He shares his thoughts on the NHL as one man who is a northerner, southerner, east coaster, and west coaster. Follow him on Twitter @EricCooney