Photo Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Oilers and Kovalchuk

Ilya Kovalchuk’s birthday was a little more important this year. When the Russian sniper turned 35 years old, he officially became an unrestricted free agent.

The story around Kovalchuk has been well documented. He signed a historic 15-year contract with the New Jersey Devils in 2010 only to walk away from it in 2013 and head home to the KHL.

The whole situation has been a mess, to say the least, but now it’s fairly simple: Ilya Kovalchuk is free to sign with whomever he wants.

Could there be a fit between Kovy and the Oilers?

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From an Oilers perspective, I think it’s a decent match. Kovalchuk is a 6’3 natural goal scorer with a wicked shot. That’s pretty much exactly what the Oilers want to add to their lineup before next season.

He’s hit the 40 goal mark five times over the course of his NHL career and during his past five years in the KHL, he finished with at least a point per game in three of those seasons.

There are a few things that worry me about Kovalchuk. He’s 35-years-old, so it’s probably not smart to assume he’ll be able to jump back into the NHL and come close to scoring 40 goals a season. Foot speed is another area of concern.

He’s spent five seasons away from the best league in the world, so there’s no guarantee he can jump back into the lineup and be an impact player.

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I do think it’s fair to expect Kovalchuk to jump back into the NHL and be a 20-25 goal scorer who can help any team’s powerplay. If the Oilers can get him at around $4 million a season on a short-term deal, I think it would be a great move.


Mar 20, 2018; Raleigh, NC, USA; Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) looks on from the players bench against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. The Edmonton Oilers defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 7-3. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

There was a rumour that Kovalchuk was set to sign a multi-year deal with the New York Rangers, but the 35-year-old shot those rumblings down.

“That’s how the press in Russia works great, that I have already signed the contract, and the number of years and the team found… In fact, I have not had any talks with anyone else,” Kovalchuk told Russia’s sports.ru.

There have been plenty of rumours about what Kovalchuk will be looking for when he decides on a team to sign with. Some are saying that he simply wants to win and will go to the team that offers him the best chance to grab a Stanley Cup, while others think he’s going for destination and would prefer to stay on the east coast.

There’s always a chance, but I personally can’t see Kovalchuk being interested in Edmonton. The Oilers could dangle the idea of playing next to Connor McDavid, which might be of interest to Kovy. They might even be able to sell him on the team’s young core and convince him that he’s the missing piece.

It will all depend on what Kovalchuk’s true intentions are. If he wants to win a Stanley Cup, then Edmonton is far from the best landing spot. If he wants to cash in with a big contract, then the Oilers will be outbid by a lot of other organizations. If he wants to have a big role and score a ton of goals, then maybe Edmonton is the best spot.

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We also don’t know which teams will be pursuing him. There’s a chance that lots of teams think there are better, safer options on the free agent market. In that case, maybe most legit Stanley Cup contenders won’t even be interested in Kovy and that could allow the Oilers to become one of the better landing spots from a quality of team perspective.

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At the end of the day, I think Kovalchuk will be looking for a combination of lifestyle, money and a chance at the Cup. The Oilers simply don’t meet all of those criteria, so I think it’s a long shot that the Russian sniper ends up in Alberta.

If you were in charge of the Oilers, would you be interested in bringing in Kovalchuk? And what would your max offer be?

  • Jerri Kurli

    I’m a bit surprised by the comments. I agree that it’s a gamble, but can someone explain a better option. We need a winger in the top 6 and we have 2, maybe 3 great future candidates in Benson, Puljijarvi, and Yamamoto but none of them are ready for that responsibility yet. There are younger free agents that are a guaranteed overpayments (Neal, JVR, among others). UFA’s have become the last resort due to the dollars and term that is required to dish out. Kovalchuk is more skilled than any winger on the market, he is getting up there in age but by all the speculation he will be most likely get signed to a 1-2 year deal in the 4-5 million dollar range. To me that is a gamble worth taking. That gives our young wingers time to grow into their potential positions. The Oilers can simply not dish out another 5+ year deal to a UFA, unless it’s at a great cap hit, which won’t happen. Trading is another avenue I personally would avoid. We can’t afford to deal prospects or picks, and unless you can ship Sekera or Russell out for a winger we should steer clear of the trade front.

    • Hockeysense9393

      Normally I would say that’s low balling, depending on teams like Montreal or Vancouver that should be interested as well…but…what would be a better opportunity then to play with McDavid for a year to inflate numbers for a better contract in the coming years?? Kind of like Radulov? Makes good sense…

    • Leichs

      Did you watch him at the Olympics this year? I know its against lesser competition but the dude was scoring like 4 goals a game. If Maroon can keep up and score with McD, I have no doubts Kovalchuk could. Look at the impact Radulov has had since returning. But there’s no chance he wants to come to Edm, especially after the dumpster fire year we had last year.

  • Arfguy

    I honestly don’t think Kovalchuk is any kind of answer for the Oilers. First of all, the Oilers need to figure out how they are going to improve over the next 5 years…not a short term fix. At this point, Kovalchuk will be at best a short term option.

    Kovalchuk can be a big part of this team. Hell, he could be a 30 goal scorer for each of his season with the Oilers. The questions to ask are:
    1) what will it cost?
    2) would you be able to convince that playing with the Oilers benefits him more than anything?

    I think the answer to both those questions are no.

  • Big Nuggets

    Can he help the team win and not cost any future assets? probably seeing as he is a better shooter than anyone on the team and likely looking for a 1 or 2 year contract. Age isn’t really relevent for a.one year stop gap player. Also a right shooting left winger sounds like a good match for Draisaitl’s backhand sauce passes, or a RW option for McNuge. Kovy on a 1 year contract has my support, but I bet he signs in the east.

  • OilerForLife

    I wouldn’t pay him more that $1.25M 1 year.
    He will have to prove all over that he can play in the league! If he sucks then they can bury him in the minors. No harm done.