NHL Free Agents: 10 Teams That Would Still Love to Sign Ilya Kovalchuk
The Ilya Kovalchuk saga is starting to look like a two team race with the Los Angeles Kings and the New Jersey Devils emerging as prohibitive favorites.
Needless to say, there are plenty of NHL teams out there that would love to add Kovalchuk to the fold.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at 10 NHL teams that would love to sign Ilya Kovalchuk…
The Boston Bruins were the NHL’s lowest scoring regular season team in 2009-10. As such, they would love to add a player who scored 230 goals over the last six NHL seasons, a player like Ilya Kovalchuk.
Kovalchuk, a pure sniper, would benefit greatly from re-uniting with Bruins set-up man, Marc Savard, a player he once shared the ice with in Atlanta.
Trouble is, like many NHL clubs, the Bruins do not have the cap room to sign Kovalchuk, so; unless they could dump a couple of high paying salaries, it will not happen.
Outside of the Boston Bruins, there was no more inept team than the Calgary Flames when it came to scoring.
Off-season moves have seen the Flames add the likes of Alex Tanguay and Olli Jokinen to the Flames roster, two players who struggled to make a difference in Calgary in their first go-around.
As good as Jarome Iginla has been for the Flames over the years, he has struggled of late, leading many to believe he could use a change of scenery and/or some new line mates to spark his play.
Could a player of Kovalchuk’s skill level spark Iggy and his team?
Sadly, we will likely never know, but it says here signing Kovalchuk would have been a much better idea than signing Jokinen and Tanguay.
When you think of Kovalchuk, you think of his offense. What doesn’t get talked about enough is his defense, or lack thereof.
Kovalchuk owns a career plus/minus rating of minus-75, which, even when you factor in the Atlanta Thrashers troubles, is an appalling statistic.
With that in mind it would seem most beneficial for Kovalchuk to play for a team that knows how to D-up, a team like the Buffalo Sabres, who boast one of the best defensive units in the NHL and the almost—flawless goaltending of Ryan Miller.
It’s been a long time since the Sabres have had a real all-star caliber forward.
Needless to say, if Kovalchuk made his way to the fiery city of Buffalo he would be the centre of every marketing effort and, in time, he would emerge as a God in Buffalo where they haven’t been “talkin' proud” about any of their professional teams in a long, long time.
There is not a lot of love for Alexander Semin in Washington these days.
Fact is, more than few Washington Capitals fans fell out of love with Semin during the Caps pathetic 2009-10 Stanley Cup Playoff performance, leading many to support moving Semin sooner, rather than later.
While an Alexander Ovechkin-Niklas Backstrom-Semin combination is intimidating, a Ovechkin-Backstrom-Kovachuk line would be all the more intimidating, especially on the power play.
Toronto Maple Leafs:
The Toronto Maple Leafs had the honor of owning the NHL’s worst power play last season, which bottomed out at a paltry 14 percent last season.
Needless to say, the Leafs could use Kovalchuk’s offensive prowess five-on-five and, of course, on the power play where Kovalchuk lit the lamp a total of 12 times (17th best in the NHL).
Kovalchuk’s offensive flare and creativity would be a Godsend for all the Leafs fans that have (with apologies to Phil Kessel) been starved for a legitimate star since the departure of former Maple Leafs captain, Mats Sundin.
Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal make up one of the best trio’s of centres in the entire NHL.
Trouble is, with all that talent down the middle comes a high price tag, a price tag that makes it very difficult for the Penguins to sign adequate wingers to complement what they have at centre.
The Penguins used 39-year-old Bill Guerin as their primary number one winger last season where he scored a respectable 21 goals.
As good as Guerin is, could you imagine Ilya Kovalchuk playing alongside Crosby for an entire season?
Can you imagine Kovalchuk playing alongside of Crosby for a decade?
Simply put, the offensive output and creativity would be “sick," night in, night out.
The Atlanta Thrashers can say whatever they want about losing Ilya Kovalchuk, the reality is, it’s a killer.
The Thrashers were the 12th best regular season offensive team in the NHL last season. That said, a ton of that offense was scored and generated by Kovalchuk, without which, the Thrashers can expect a huge dip in their offensive output and a nosedive in their win totals for the upcoming 2010-11 season.
The Thrashers have watched a slew of all-star caliber players leave or get traded out of Atlanta, including the likes of Dany Heatley, Marc Savard, Marian Hossa and, of course, Kovalchuk.
The endless loss of talent is bound to catch up to your attendance figures as Thrashers fans are continually let down when it comes to keeping their stars in the fold, which will ultimately lead to poor box office and attendance figures.
Given the fact that the Thrashers made an offer to Kovalchuk that was in excess of $100 million, you realize just how badly they needed him to remain in Atlanta.
Sadly, Kovalchuk will not be back.
New York Islanders:
As good as John Tavares was as a rookie forward with the New York Islanders last season (24 goals, 30 assists), you know the Islanders would love to acquire the services of Ilya Kovalchuk, especially when you consider the organization's struggles to get a new arena.
The Islanders have struggled on and off the ice to the point that there have been numerous whispers that the Islanders would be moved.
Tavares may emerge as an NHL superstar, Kovalchuk already IS an NHL superstar, a superstar that could help the Islanders re-establish themselves in a city that is in need of a winning season and a long playoff run before the fans will fully endorse this team again.
The NHL’s modern day economics makes it all but impossible for NHL franchises to compete without a state of the art arena. Signing Kovalchuk would go a long way in getting the city to take the Islanders seriously again…
New Jersey Devils:
New Jersey Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello paid a steep price (defenseman Johnny Oduya, rookie forward Niklas Bergfors prospect Patrice Cormier and New Jersey’s first round draft pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft) when he pulled the trigger on a deal that saw Kovalchuk head to the Devils.
Needless to say, Lamoriello would love to remove the “rental player” tag from Kovalchuk, making him a long time member of the Devils, a club that could use his scoring and star power.
Rumored to have offered a deal that would see Kovalchuk earn $100 million over 17 years, Lou Lamoriello and the Devils organization have made a very strong offer to the talented Russian, an offer that may land Kovalchuk in New Jersey after all.
Los Angeles Kings:
Outside of New Jersey Devils fans who are clamoring for the addition of Ilya Kovalchuk, most NHL fans would love to see Kovalchuk playing in Los Angeles with the Kings.
The Kings feature one of the best young lineups in the entire NHL and have a cupboard full of prospects that rivals any other NHL’s teams stable of talent.
Like the Islanders, the Los Angeles Kings would love to add a player of Kovalchuk’s status, not only because of his offensive upside, but also to market around.
The Kings and Kovalchuk met Monday to discuss a possible deal face-to-face; a meeting which has many reporters speculating that a deal between the two sides is imminent.
Needless to say, given the King’s inability to sign Kovalchuk on several occasions this summer, the book is hardly closed. That said, when you look at all the opportunities Kovalchuk has, as long as the money works out, the King’s look to be the strongest contender for Kovalchuk’s services.