A report out of the Russian paper Sovietsky Sport says the Montreal Canadiens are considering not re-signing current and long-time serving captain Saku Koivu and then signing Alex Kovalev to a one-year deal and handing the "C" over to No. 27.
"If I'm not signed by July 1, I don't think I'll be back in Montreal," commented Koivu.
"Finishing your career with one team would be awesome in a way, but it's too early to say because I don't know what the team's plan is."
Now opens the newest and perhaps most painful chapter in the ongoing Koivu-Kovalev leadership debacle.
Koivu, the nine-year captain of the Canadiens and 21st overall pick in 1993, will definitely not be back in bleu, blanc, et rogue if the Canadiens were to sign Kovalev. The chemistry of the team, especially over the last two seasons and playoffs, has been night and day when either Koivu or Kovalev has donned the "C".
Last year's first-round play against the upstart Bruins got off to a winning start thanks to an inspired effort by Kovalev, including a Game Two overtime winner. But it was a goal which many fans thought was borderline selfish that Kovalev would not come off after coach Guy Carbonneau had called his interim captain off the ice.
Despite what Saku Koivu has gone through and done for the Montreal Canadiens organization in his 15 seasons in Montreal, he has not done what many long-serving captains of the Canadiens do—win a Stanley Cup.
Only three times in his nine-year stint as captain have the Canadiens even advanced to the second round. Over all those second-round visits, the Canadiens have only won a combined three games.
Koivu's career has been plagued by injuries and by a tough and resilient battle with cancer that made him a lightning rod for a first-round upset of the Bruins in 2002.
Yet, it seems as if Koivu's desire and enthusiasm has collided with his leadership style and the other leader in the dressing room—an actual Stanley Cup winner in Alex Kovalev.
Whether the Canadiens are serious about signing Kovalev to a reported $6 to $7.5 million contract for only one year and then handing number 27 the captaincy, is only known by the big boss with the hot sauce in the Bell Centre.
If Kovalev does sign and becomes the full-time captain, I cannot see him only signing for one year and no more after that—unless the Canadiens go straight into rebuilding mode in the 2009-2010 season.
With the mantra of the Canadiens sure to change even more than a departure from their long-standing captain, Kovalev could be the catalyst and ideal leader for the new version of the Canadiens come next season.
With seven other unrestricted free agents including Mike Komisarek, Mathieu Schneider, and Robert Lang looming on the July 1 horizon, the plot has thickened.
For Bob Gainey, the fun has only begun.