Heading into the offseason, we can see that there are some rather attractive free agents this year.
With Patrick Marleau, Thomas Plekanec, Alexander Frolov, Scott Niedermeyer, Niklas Lidstrom, and Sergei Gonchar headlined as some of this year's top free agents, there is still one who stands out above the rest in Ilya Kovalchuk.
Kovalchuk finished up the past season with the New Jersey Devils, and in my opinion, was a big disappointment. When the New Jersey Devils acquired the services of Kovalchuk from the Atlanta Trashers for Johnny Oduya, Niklas Berfors, Patrice Cormier, and a first-round pick, they expected a lot more out of him.
In his 27 regular season games with the Devils, Kovalchuk only managed 10 goals and 27 points, and in the playoffs only two goals and six points in five games played. I think that it's safe to assume that the Devils expected a lot more from the superstar Russian sniper, but as it remains—the risk did not pan out in New Jersey's favor.
Kovalchuk's style of play just didn't fit in with the New Jersey Devil's system. Kovalchuk is used to being the star of the team in Atlanta and used to be the go-to guy. Every single play designated Kovalchuk as the answer.
When he came to New Jersey, he had to adjust to a completely different style of hockey. The Devils play a team game and don't designate a single player as the answer. Kovalchuk just didn't fit in on the team and I would be very surprised if he re-signed with them this offseason.
I can think of a few teams who could benefit from the services of Kovalchuk and automatically designate him as the star and go-to player on their team.
The Phoenix Coyotes are a team that I think could definitely benefit from having Kovalchuk. Currently the team is without a player that they can designate as a top player in the NHL. This past season Shane Doan was the leading scorer of the Coyotes with 55 points and as a team they relied on the outstanding play of Ilya Bryzgalov to make the playoffs.
With not many big names on their team up front, the addition of Kovalchuk would be greatly appreciated to the Coyotes roster and with former third overall pick Kyle Turris ready to see some significant time next season, we could see the Phoenix Coyotes back in the playoffs.
The next team that I could think of that would benefit from the services of Kovalchuk would be the Florida Panthers. The entire team last season only scored 208 goals, third-worst in the league, and finished with the second-worst record in the Eastern Conference.
They only had three players eclipse the 20-goal plateau and their leading scorer scored only 28. The addition of Kovalchuk would be greatly appreciative for this team.
The last team who I think would love to acquire the services of Kovalchuk are the Calgary Flames. The Flames scored only 204 goals last season, worst in the league, and it is already apparent that the Flames are trying to make cap room in order to sign Kovalchuk, but there are lot more moves the Daryl Sutter will have to make before the team is able to sign him.
If Kovalchuk were to pick any of teams that I just named, it would most likely be the Phoenix Coyotes. They have a bright future and have great goaltending that made them a playoff team this past season. All they need now is more goal scoring and they could be a real threat in the Western Conference.
Kovalchuk will not go to Florida because that franchise is in the same boat as the Atlanta Trashers. The main reason for Kovalchuk leaving Atlanta was because he wanted to play for a more competitive team. Calgary wouldn't make sense either in my opinion. They have way too much money tied up and Kovalchuk has already expressed no interest in playing in Canada.
In my honest opinion, I don't see Kovalchuk playing for any of these teams next season, actually I don't even see him playing in the NHL at all. Kovalchuk is a very selfish player who doesn't know how to play a team game.
Any player who plays for himself and no one else will only make his team worse. Kovalchuk is the poster boy for a selfish player. He does not know how to play a defensive game and doesn't ever help out in his own end.
People who have coached Kovalchuk have often deemed him "uncoachable" in the aspect that if he doesn't agree with the opinion of the coach, or if he does not like a play or drill, he simply won't do it or won't listen.
Kovalchuk may be asking for close to $10 million next season, but I don't think he's worth anywhere near that. With the NHL salary cap stating that no player can earn more than 20% of their team's salary cap and Kovalchuk demanding pretty close to that, I think we will see Kovalchuk play in the KHL next season and good riddance I say.
The last thing that NHL needs is a player who thinks that he is above everyone else as one of the ambassadors of the game. I would much rather see him take his selfish play to the KHL than take up a huge chunk of money from any team in the league and that is what I am pretty sure is going to happen.
Kovalchuk will play next year in the KHL and make his money and he will continue to play there until he learns that there is no better league in the world than the NHL and finally decides to play a team game.
Let's just see if any team is willing to give Kovalchuk more money than Crosby, Malkin, and even Ovechkin, and then we can see how effective he really is.