A domino effect of the Kovalchuk deal: no money here to have, so I'd better look elsewhere. I assume they used primer, followed by two coats latex to paint themselves into this corner.
Kovalchuk's deal is obscene in a lot of ways.... but his cap hit is really pretty manageable. He's 24th in the league in Cap hit, behind inferior players like Vanek, Eric Staal, Nash, Lecavalier, Gomez, Drury, Bouwmeester, etc... It's not Kovalchuk's deal that is the ridiculous one when it comes to cap management and fielding a team.
Lou threw out no trade/movement clauses like candy at Halloween to players who didn't warrant them... and now he's stuck with overpaying guys like Rolston (5 million cap hit for 2 games so far, and 37 points last year...), Zubrus, Langenbrunner, and Elias.
And the Defense Lou put together is composed of players who have never put points on the board: Volchenkov, Tallinder, Colin White, etc... Imagine Datsyuk and Zetterberg trying to put up points without guys like Raf, Lidstrom, and Kronwall moving the puck. Think they'd stay at a PPG? The blame doesn't rest on Kovalchuk's shoulders... His cap hit isn't bad, and he didn't put a gun to anyone's head to make Devils management sign him and sign all those other bad contracts.