Ilya Kovalchuk Traded to Capitals from Canadiens for 2020 3rd-Round Pick

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist

Montreal Canadiens forward Ilya Kovalchuk (17) skates during the second period of an NHL hockey game agisnst the Buffalo Sabres, Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
Jeffrey T. Barnes/Associated Press

The Washington Capitals added depth to their offense prior to Monday's trade deadline, announcing they had traded their third-round pick in the 2020 NHL draft to the Montreal Canadiens for left winger Ilya Kovalchuk.

The Capitals noted the Canadiens will retain 50 percent of Kovalchuk's salary. The 36-year-old is only under contract through the remainder of the season and makes $700,000 in 2019-20.

Pierre LeBrun of TSN suggested "every dime counts for the cap-challenged [Capitals]" and pointed out the Canadiens are on the hook for approximately $76,000 of Kovalchuk's salary the rest of the way.

Washington will be the veteran's third team of the season. The Los Angeles Kings placed him on waivers in December, and Thomas Williams of Yahoo Sports Canada noted the two sides were "in a standoff since his disappointing on-ice play after signing his three-year, $18.75-million deal last summer" prior to the move.

While the Canadiens have won their past two games, they are eight points out of the final wild-card spot in a deep Eastern Conference. This move allows them to salvage something in return for Kovalchuk before he potentially leaves this offseason.

The 36-year-old has appeared in 39 games for the Kings and Canadiens this season and has 22 points on 13 assists and nine goals. He finished the 2018-19 season with 34 points in his first NHL campaign since 2012-13, and the hiatus came because he joined SKA Saint Petersburg in his native Russia.

Kovalchuk was a two-time All-Star in his prime prior to his departure for Russia. He also won the Maurice Richard Trophy as the league's top goal scorer (41) while playing for the Atlanta Thrashers in 2003-04.

Washington will not receive that version of the playmaker, but he can still provide veteran leadership and scoring depth for the Metropolitan Division leaders as they pursue a second Stanley Cup championship in three years.

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