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?

  • CMG30

    Not really interested. Just another shot in the dark to try and find a sniper for McDavid. If he signed a one year deal then I could live with it, but I don’t think he’s our guy.

    • Mantooth

      So you’re telling me you’ve never made a selfish move at some point when you were younger?!? How do we know he hasn’t made amends and apologized to the Devils organization. A lot happens in 8 years and people grow up and mature. My opinion on the matter at hand tho, is I’d rather allocate that money to Pat Maroon then on an aging star. I doubt he’s built like Jagr, not many were.

    • oilerjed

      Is it ok when a NHL team signs a player and then buries him in the AHL? Ask Fayne how he feels about it? Maybe Souray, but we know how he feels.
      Owners take every advantage of players contracts so players should have the same freedom. Its not like it cost the Devils any money when he left, in fact it was the exact opposite. And seeing how bad the devils were going to be for the next 5 years…….

      • C U Next Tuesday

        I wish the NHL handled contracts like the NFL. Had a bad year…see ya! You showed some great hustle out there today…that’s why its so hard to cut you.

    • Glencontrolurstik

      Trainreck… What you said…
      Ovechkin comes to mind?
      Scoring a plethora of goals isn’t everything if it costs the team in the end.
      It’s funny, but everyone counts the Capitals out of a playoff run, since he’s been on the team. Plus, goals wise we already have McDavid.
      I’m out…

  • Dougie_Sharms

    For those old school Oilers fans, you will remember the Oilers made a big “splash” by trading for Jiri Dopita (34 years old at the time) back in 2002. He was at one point regarded as the best non-NHL player in the world. He ended up with 6 points (1G 5A) in 21 games and was never seen from again.

    Moral of the story: don’t buy into the hype. Focus on what this team truly needs.

        • Samesame

          Exactly. One has proven he’s capable of being the best player on an nhl squad and of the leagues elite players. And even after time away is still dominating on the world stage (world chmpship against star nhl’ers and in Olympics)

          The other guy never accomplished anything close to that. Both doing well overseas is the only reasonable thing they have in common

          Absolutely apples and oranges.

          • Samesame

            An apt comparison would be radulov. Both quality nhl’ers who left. And Who’s returned and thrived. And as good as he is, even he wasn’t the caliber of kovalchuk.

          • crabman

            I don’t know how comparable Kovalchuk and Radulov’s situations are. Radulov was only 30 and willing to take a 1 year deal just to get back on the league. We don’t know what kind of deal Kovalchuk will be looking for. Being only 30 there wasn’t the same cap risk there will be involving Kovalchuk being 35. During the last 3 years before Radulov returned to the NHL he was scoring 1.27pts/g while Kovalchuk was at .97pt/g. Kovalchuk ha had a great last 2 seasons but it is hard to tell if scoring was up league wide the past 2 years, like the NHL this year, or if he found another level at the age of 33.
            I have no doubt Kovalchuk could still be an effective NHLer but at 35 he comes at a risk where as Radulov didn’t. And if they really are even comparisons, with a higher salary cap, Kovalchuk should be set to make north of $6M on a 1 year deal pricing himself out of an option for Edmonton.

  • Rob...

    2 years, 4 per season and I’d put him on Drais’ line, not McDavid’s, but I’d put all 3 on the same powerplay unit; Nuge centering the 2nd unit. Some other team will over him a ton more money though.

  • A-Mc

    Because he’s 35+, i believe he can sign for a low cap hit but have performance bonuses built into his contract. Meaning, some team might land him for 1-2M/yr but with performance bonuses for a 20,30,40+ Goal season.

    I’m not sure if i’d be interested in having him unless it was a base cap hit of 1M/yr. If we have to pay for his high performance level, i’m A-OK with that. If he doesnt perform – we move him for a pick at the deadline.

    • crabman

      If he is signed to a heavy performance bonus deal we need to plan on him hitting the bonuses. That money would still go against the cap if he reached said bonuses. The good thing about such a contract is st least if he gets injured the team would only be on the hook for a small cap hit. As a player signing a deal over the age of 35 the team is on the hook for his full cap hit regardless of he plays in the NHL or is demoted to the AHL. Or whether he plays a full season or spends the majority on LTIR. That’s the risk you take when you sign 35+ player.

  • TKB2677

    I am sorry but Kovalchuk is not coming over from Russia to play in Edmonton unless that is his only offer. I don’t care if the Oilers have McDavid, it’s not happening.