Ilya Kovalchuk is done with the LA Kings, and the Boston Bruins are interested. The Bruins were interested in the unrestricted free agent when Kovalchuk returned to the NHL from the KHL last season, and now an NHL source told Boston Hockey Now the Boston Bruins are once again interested in Kovalchuk.
On Monday, the LA Kings put Kovalchuk on unconditional waivers for the purpose of terminating his contract. Kovalchuk cleared waivers on Tuesday and became an unrestricted free agent. An NHL source with knowledge of the situation told Boston Hockey Now that Kovalchuk, 36, is already drawing interest from a handful of teams.
In addition to the Bruins, the New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens, and Florida Panthers are also thought to be interested. As the GM of the New Jersey Devils, current Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello attempted to sign Kovalchuk to a 17-year deal in 2010. The NHL rejected then punished New Jersey.
The Bruins were close to signing Kovalchuk on July 1, 2018, but the Russian winger decided to sign a three-year $18.75 million contract with the Kings. Word at the time was the Bruins determined his age and price tag didn’t fit their cap situation.
Based on Kovalchuk’s shortened tenure with the Kings, it appears they were right.
Kovalchuk had 34 points (16g, 18a) in 64 games last season and has just nine points (3g, 6a) in 17 games this season. After going nine straight games without a goal, Kings head coach Todd McLellan consistently made Kovalchuk a healthy scratch. He has not played in a game since November 9.
According to KHL reporter Igor Eronko, Kovalchuk is reportedly willing to sign with a contender for minimum wage.
Bruins – Ilya Kovalchuk Analysis
Kovalchuk was once one of the most prolific snipers in the NHL. He had ten straight 30-goal seasons, seven 40-goal seasons, and two 50-goal campaigns from 2002-03 until 2011-12. In 897 career games in the NHL, Kovalchuk has 436 goals and 423 assists. He has 11 goals and 16 assists in 32 career playoff games.
However, Kovalchuk’s production has declined, and he has struggled with the speed and tempo of the NHL. If the Bruins can get him on a one-year deal at the league minimum, the Bruins deep roster may be able to overcome his deficiencies, and Kovalchuk could add the desired scoring punch they’re looking for on the second and third lines.
Due to lack of scoring and injuries, the Bruins second-line right wing has again become a rotating door. Charlie Coyle is the latest tenant on the right flank with center David Krejci and left wing Jake DeBrusk. Coyle said he is comfortable playing there, but head coach Bruce Cassidy said the Bruins are at their best when they have that 1-2-3 punch of Patrice Bergeron, Krejci, and Coyle up the middle.
“We lucked out in the playoffs right, with ‘Bergy,’ ‘Krech’ and me all lined up the middle like that,” Coyle said Monday. “Would we love that every game? Sure we would, but injuries and other things dictate otherwise sometimes, and we just adapt the best we can. That said, yes, I’d prefer that, but I’ll go anywhere the coach tells me to.”
If Ilya Kovalchuk or another winger were able to provide consistent scoring, then the Bruins feel they would have one of the deepest, if not the deepest forward groups in the NHL. The question is, even at minimum wage, is Kovalchuk still worth it? They could find that out very soon.