After last offseason’s big tease with former NHL superstar Ilya Kovalchuk, you can’t blame NHL general managers for taking a cautious approach when negotiating with the 35 year old Russian sniper. Still as many as eight teams have reportedly expressed interest in signing Kovalchuk, according to TSN’s Pierre LeBrun.
You may recall that talks between Kovalchuk and potential suitors like the New York Rangers, Vegas Golden Knights and Los Angeles Kings fell apart when the New Jersey Devils, Kovalchuk’s former NHL team, were unable to consummate a deal and ship his contractual rights to another team. This offseason however, Kovalchuk has no ties to the Devils organization and is free to sign with whichever NHL team he chooses.
So… who’s in the bidding this time around? LeBrun reports that there are two “tiers” of suitors for Kovalchuk with the Kings, Rangers, San Jose Sharks and Boston Bruins pushing the hardest and earning “top contender” status from LeBrun. The secondary tier, that is teams who have expressed interest but haven’t necessarily met or discussed terms with Kovalchuk, consists of the Detroit Red Wings, St. Louis Blues, Dallas Stars and Anaheim Ducks.
Here’s the report straight from LeBrun himself:
The top contenders, I believe, are the Kings (who met with Kovalchuk on Friday), the Bruins, the Rangers and the Sharks (who met with him Monday). Then I think there’s a second group of teams including Detroit, St. Louis, Dallas and Anaheim. Now, other teams can still get involved, no question, but at this point I think that’s your list, which is already pretty deep.
It’s believed that Kovalchuk met with both the Kings and the Sharks this past weekend during a trip to California.
Sharks insider Kevin Kurz of The Athletic recently spoke with Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer who dropped some serious compliments when talking about Kovalchuk. DeBoer, of course, was Kovalchuk’s head coach with the Devils when the team made an improbable run to the 2012 Stanley Cup Final.
Here’s Kovalchuk in DeBoer’s own words:
“I loved Kovy in New Jersey. We went to a Stanley Cup Final together. He was a huge piece for us there. I really enjoyed coaching him. I haven’t seen him in four or five years now. I’m sure there’s still a lot of game left there.”
“I had a really good relationship with him. I had a lot of respect for him as a player and a person.”
Interesting… you don’t get much better than that when it comes to ringing endorsements from your head coach.
The Sharks are expected to make a strong pitch for pending free agent John Tavares and of course they’ve already re-signed winger Evander Kane to a long-term deal. If GM Doug Wilson manages to net Kane, Tavares AND Kovalchuk this offseason, expect the Sharks to emerge as a Stanley Cup favorite in 2018-19.