The Boston Bruins’ longtime interest in Montreal Canadiens winger Ilya Kovalchuk has been reignited but could they also be interested in Kovalchuk’s teammate Tomas Tatar?
After Kovalchuk found the fountain of youth in Montreal and registered six goals and six assists since signing a two-way, league minimum ($700,000 cap hit) with the Canadiens on January 3, the Bruins circled back on the 36-year-old winger recently. Despite them and 30 other teams passing on Kovalchuk after he became an unrestricted free agent in December when the Los Angeles Kings terminated his contract, the Bruins have once again looked into what it would take to acquire Kovalchuk. Word around the league is it would take a 2020 second round pick. If the Bruins aren’t willing to pay that for a rental, who until he arrived in Montreal, appeared to be done, could they look at Tatar who has one year remaining on a four-year contract that carries a $5.2 million cap hit?
On Sunday, the Tampa Bay Lightning – who after winning 11 straight games suddenly trail the Bruins by just one point in the Atlantic Division – acquired a winger the Bruins were in on, Blake Coleman from the New Jersey Devils for prospect Nolan Foote and Vancouver’s 2020 first round pick. Last week, the Pittsburgh Penguins acquired winger Jason Zucker from the Minnesota Wild for a 2020 first-round pick (lottery protected), top defenseman prospect Calen Addison and Alex Galchenyuk. Another Bruins target winger Tyler Toffoli, was dealt to the Vancouver Canucks for former Bruins forward Tim Schaller, a 2020 second-round pick, forward prospect Tyler Madden and conditional fourth round pick in 2022.
With the rental market (Toffoli) and the market for players with term (Zucker, Coleman) starting to form and just six days remaining until the NHL trade deadline, TSN Insider Darren Dreger wondered on TSN 690 Montreal Tuesday morning, when Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney may finally jump into the fray and if Tatar could be a target?
“I look at the Boston Bruins in the East and Pittsburgh got better; Tampa Bay got better; you’re seeing teams around the East improve and yet Don Sweeney and the Boston Bruins are standing pat,” Dreger said. “I can’t for a second believe that the Bruins aren’t going to engage in some way shape or form and maybe there is a fit with the Montreal Canadiens, as unsightly as that might seem given the historic rivalry between these two.”
While Dreger, along with many around the NHL, have wondered why Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin might trade away Tatar, who has 21 goals in 61 games this season, in the midst of trying to make the playoffs, the trades of players with term like Zucker and Coleman have him looking at Bergevin’s predicament differently.
“The Blake Coleman trade and what [Jim] Benning paid to get Tyler Toffoli from the Los Angeles Kings. If you’re getting that sort of return for Tatar or even Jeff Petry, well that makes some sense to me. I didn’t expect the return and the ask would meet. I thought that some of these managers were going to have to come back to the pack to make a deal that was suitable for both. So if Marc Bergevin can land something like that for either Tatar or Petry and if it’s the Boston Bruins that want to step up on Tatar or Ilya Kovalchuk because they feel like they need some help up front, then alright let’s see it.”
While the idea of the two bitter rivals dealing with and helping each other may seem taboo to longtime fans of each club, the reality of the salary cap and the NHL in 2020 is that when it comes to trades, rivalries are thrown out the door. The New Jersey Devils just sent longtime captain Andy Greene to their longtime rivals, the New York Islanders, for prospect David Quenneville and a 2021 second-round draft pick and while no one is claiming the Islanders-Devils rivalry is on par with the Bruins-Habs, that was just another example of two general managers doing what they had to do to improve their teams, regardless of the trade partner. So yes, it’s not such a crazy idea that the Bruins and Canadiens might complete their first trade since the 2000-01 season when defenseman Eric Weinrich was acquired by the Bruins for fellow rearguard Patrick Traverse.