On Friday, Eric Engels of Sportsnet reported that the Boston Bruins interest in Montreal Canadiens winger Ilya Kovalchuk has been reignited by Kovalchuk’s rebirth since signing with the Habs back on January 3. In 14 games in the bleu-blanc-rouge since then, the 36-year-old winger has lit the lamp five times and has eleven points. Here’s what Engels said about the Bruins’ interest in Kovalchuk:
“Here’s what we know: The Canadiens, who are hoping to win at least six of their eight games leading into the Feb. 24 deadline, aren’t likely to accept less than a second-round pick or, at worst, a conditional third-round pick that turns into a second for Kovalchuk’s services should they fall further back in the race.
And here’s what we found out on Tuesday as we were watching the Canadiens pull off a 5-4 comeback win over the New Jersey Devils: The Boston Bruins might be the most likely team to offer up that kind of compensation for the Russian sniper.”
Engels cited the fact the Bruins have a second-round pick in each of their next three drafts as a reason they may have an edge to pull off a trade with their archrivals and beat out the likes of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and potentially the Florida Panthers.
The Bruins looked into Kovalchuk both in July 2018 when he was an unrestricted free agent and signed a three-year contract worth $18.5 million with the Los Angeles Kings and this past December when the Kings terminated Kovalchuk’s contract and made him an unrestricted free agent again after he scored just 16 goals and 18 assists in 64 games last season and then had only three goals and six assists in 17 games before the Kings made him a healthy scratch for almost six weeks as they tried to trade him. The Bruins and multiple teams decided to pass on the struggling Russian winger who prior to leaving the NHL for five years before coming back last season, was arguably the most lethal sniper in the game.
The Canadiens, in need of some forward depth with Paul Byron and Jonathan Drouin out at the time, and fighting for a playoff spot, decided to take a chance on Kovalchuk, signing him to the league minimum and a two-way contract worth $700,000 in the NHL and $70,000 in the AHL. He has more than exceeded expectations, on and off the ice, and as Engels pointed out, has trade value again.
If the Bruins did acquire Kovalchuk a prorated $700,000 cap hit, they would be getting a player that currently has 441 goals and 429 assists in 911 games. They would also be getting one of the most clutch shootout players of all-time. From the 2010-11 season until he left following the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, Kovalchuk went 15-for-25 in the shootout and in 2011-12, Kovalchuk helped the Devils go 12-4 in the shootout and scored an astonishing 11 times on 14 attempts. New Jersey made the playoffs as a sixth seed and made the Stanley Cup Final before losing to the Los Angeles Kings in six games.