Everyone is trying to figure out where Kovalchuk is going, and as far as we all know the Devils are the only team in the running. We have heard reports that this is so. If it is true, I believe that Lou is some kind of magician. Here is my case:
In order to sign Kovalchuk, the Devils will need to clear cap space. There is currently $4,748,334 available cap per capgeep with a roster size of 18:
Getting his name on paper is no problem - we are allowed to go 10% above temporarily to sign him. That allows 4.7 + 5.9 = 10.6. We already know that no one (aside from Atlanta) would be willing to pay him 10 million/year, especially not Lou Lamoriello. So we are good here. However, we need to have a proper roster for the season, and that is why Lou will need to move some players.
To start with, the minimum roster is 20, but in general teams need to have a 13th forward and a 7th defenseman. This means the Devils need to add 1 defenceman and 3 forwards. If we assume these will all be entry-level or bargain contracts they will be between .5 and 1 million. assuming an average of .75 gives us roughly 1.7 million of available cap.
in 2009-2010, Kovalchuk made 6.4 million in salary. No one is expecting him to take a pay cut. A minimal increase would be 7 million. The Everson report had him at 8.6. This figure is still up in the air, but I think that saying near 8 million is probably reasonable. If Lou convinced Kovalchuk to take 7.5 when he was asking for 10 I would be ready to crown him king.
It is highly unlikely that Lou will work out one of the super-long term deals to extend the cap hit. Kovalchuk is only 27, and Lou is not Mike Milbury - those contracts are designed to outlast the player's carreer, and Kovalchuk could play till he's forty. 15 year deal? No thanks. The deal will likely be 6-7 years so that it expires before Kovalchuk is 35.
So if we assume then that the cap hit and the salary are roughly going to be the same and there will be no cap relief, then the deal will require 8-9 million of cap space. With 1.7 available, that means Lou will need to free up roughly 6-7 million by making trades. So who's it going to be?
For all those asking who has no-trade clauses, and who might be moved, check capgeek the link above. NTCs have a little lock beside the player's name.
Any player that has a NTC is very unlikely to be moved via trade to clear cap space (e.g. Rolston or Langenbrunner). In order for one of these players to move, they would be doing Lou a favour. If it were to happen, it would probably have to be compensated by the player getting to choose the team.
Any player that is performing at a level way below their salary is also unlikely to be moved via trade (e.g. Rolston or pre-buyout-Pandolfo). In order for one of these players to move, some other Team's GM must be willing to do Lou a favor. Probably compensated by a prospect or a draft pick. It is worth noting here that Jay did Lou a huge favour here by requesting a buyout, since his injury status did not allow Lou to buy him out otherwise.
Any player that signed a multi-year contract after the age of 35 will not be moved via buyout (e.g. Rolston). Although a trade would be possible (if there was not a NTC involved), the player cannot be be waived or bought out to reduce cap space. I believe the common expression for this is "even if (the player) is abducted by aliens, his full salary counts towards the cap."
Any player making less than 1 million is not likely to be moved since there would be negligable cap savings (they still need to be replace on the roster, and the minimum salary is .5 million). Currently the only Devil on the roster between 1-2 million is Hedberg, so really one could say that any Devil makein gless thatn 2 million is not likely to be moved.
Any player who is part of the core. This is where Lou has to make some tough decisions, but I thing it is safe to assume the following players without an NTC are not going to be traded: Zach Parise, Travis Zajac. Not only are these two the constant on their first line, but replacing them would likely cost more than their current hit, or else drastically weaken the team over both the short and long term.
All that being said, here is the list of "expendable" Devils:
Dainius Zubrus $3,400,000
David Clarkson $2,666,666
Henrik Tallinder $3,375,000
Bryce Salvador $2,900,000
Pretty thin, eh? And when you consider Tallinder and Clarkson were both just signed, you have to wonder how Lou is going to make this work. Zubrus + Salvador = 6.3 million. Don't forget they need to be replaced on the roster, and if we assume again that we can do that for 750,000 each that means we freed up 4.8. That is not the 6 million we need to keep Kovalchuk.
So now we have to look at cutting holes in the team. Ugh.
The two guys that people keep talking about are White and Rolston. Remember that White falls into both untradeable categories above - NTC and underperforming. He could be bought out which would save 2 million in cap, but we still have to replace him so that becomes only 1.25 million in cap. And White is endeared to the Devil's organization probably more than anyone aside from Martin Brodeur himself, so I can't see Lou going this way given the minimal gains.
Rolston is more interesting. Not only does he fall under both untradeable categories like White, but he also can't be bought out. Yet he is singlehandedly tying up 5 million in cap. This is what I think is the only "bad contract" on the Devil's roster. If Lou could find a GM with cap space willing to do him a huge favour AND Rolston agreed that he wanted to play on that team, then there could be a match. However, all the teams with cap space are not ones that anyone would want to play for. IF Lou could find a taker for Rolson he would be indebted to someone BIG TIME.
So there you have it. The numbers look terrible. If Lou can find a way to sign Kovalchuk, he more than deserves his place in the HHOF - they should let him set up his office there.