An interview by reporter Jonathan Davis with Los Angeles Kings GM Dean Lombardi following the news Ilya Kovalchuk had signed a 17-year, $102-million deal with the New Jersey Devils Monday, July 19.
Jonathan Davis: When did you find out that Kovalchuk had signed with the Devils?
Dean Lombardi: Jay Grossman called me around 8 a.m. this morning.
JD: What was your reaction?
DL: I was dissapointed having gone through the process. There is so much that one goes through these days in having to put together a deal like this. This was a process that started 15 days ago. A lot of hard work. I have no regrets. It was worth the time and effort.
JD: Was it going to take $100 million to sign Kovalchuk?
DL: That was the number that was out there since Day 1. We didn’t want to go there. We were trying to figure out how close we could get. We were in the $80 million territory. We put together a contract that would see him play ’til he was 40. We looked at guys like Luc (Robitaille), Yzerman, Messier and took a look at how old they were when they were still productive. We felt 40 was pretty accurate. We didn’t want a contract that would go beyond his “true” playing years.
JD: Is losing out on Kovalchuk a “setback” for this organization?
DL: This was the first time I felt we as an organization were ready to bring on a player of this caliber. We as an organization are at the point where I hoped we would be entering this season. Would a player like this potentially bring us to the next level? Yes. So if you want to call it a setback, I understand, but I am comfortable where we are and where we are going. This team has superstars in the making in Doughty and Kopitar. Yes, Kovalchuk could help to elevate their game, but I also believe that both these guys are ready to take their game to a new level.
JD: Are you concerned about any backlash from the fans for not making this deal happen?
DL: I had more fans telling me not to do this deal. There was concern that he wasn’t the right fit, especially for the money.
JD: With all the time devoted to Kovalchuk and not being sure on what potential dollars would be involved did you miss out on filling other needs via free agency?
DL: Not really. The only guy that I would have liked to have signed was that blueliner who went to Pittsburgh (Paul Martin).
JD: You have said to me in the past that you would like to improve at the center position and you still need help on the left wing. Is it time to play, “Let’s make a deal”?
DL: I will always explore the trade options. The one thing I will say is that I am most impressed with the progress of Brayden Schenn and Andrei Loktionov. They both have the potential to be second line centers. They may not be ready quite yet, but they will push the vets in camp this year.
JD: With Kovalchuk out of the picture, does that mean Alexander Frolov could be back in the picture?
DL: (laughs) Good question! Let me put it this way. We will look at all of our options. He has a better chance than he did 15 days ago. We just have to see.