For the second offseason in a row former NHL superstar Ilya Kovalchuk is expected to be hotly pursued once the NHL’s free agency period officially gets under way on July 1st. The only difference this time around is Kovalchuk has no ties to his former team, the New Jersey Devils, to complicate matters, meaning he can sign wherever he chooses.
Early reports indicate that the 35 year old Russian sniper has met with both the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks over the past week and just yesterday TSN’s Pierre LeBrun confirmed that the Boston Bruins, New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings, St. Louis Blues, Dallas Stars and Anaheim Ducks have also expressed interest in signing Kovalchuk.
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.
Staff writers at The Boston Globe managed to get Bruins general manager Don Sweeney to address the rumors and… well let’s just say that Sweeney wasn’t exactly playing coy:
“I’ve been in contact with his group, Sweeney said, noting he was intrigued “for obvious reasons… about 230 pounds and still scores goals. He is 35, so you have to factor that in, but he brings a lot to the table.”
The question now is… is the interest mutual? Again, early reports are that Kovalchuk is only interested in signing with a Stanley Cup contender, giving the Bruins an edge over teams like the Rangers, Red Wings, Blues and Stars, all of whom failed to qualify for the postseason this past year. You have to imagine that the Bruins stick out as a frontrunner, even amongst playoff teams like the Kings, Sharks and Ducks.
Assuming there’s interest from both sides, what’s do contract negotiations looks like for a 35 year old KHLer who last played in the NHL over five years ago? While Kovalchuk has been a productive goal scorer in Russia the past five seasons, it’s difficult to know whether or not his high level of play will translate to the NHL once again. Kovalchuk played for a star-laden team with SKA Saint Petersburg, so there’s a chance that his offensive contributions over the past five years have been artificially inflated as a result. Then again… the is a former 50 goal scorer in the NHL. Decisions… decisions…
So… what do you think, Bruins fans? Would you welcome Kovalchuk to this team? And if so, what’s a fair deal?