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.

    • 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…

    • 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.

  • 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.


    One year show me contract we don’t need another Lucic. 2-4M tops. I would rather use the money on a #1 Goalie and improve the team instead of taking a gamble.

    • McRaj

      I was wondering when you would show up with your Talbot hate. Not sure if anyone has called you out on it yet, maybe everyone is ignoring your trolling. Get over it, Talbot is a #1 and will bounce back. Will you disappear when he does next year or admit your mistake and still appear here.

  • QuitForRealThisTime

    Nuge has proven to be the best option for a 1st line Left wing, the Oil need to have Lucic on the second line because the money he is making means he needs to earn it. The Oil will have something like $5 mil to sign a RW and another Dman. Ilya is not the player they need.

    • LAKID

      Lucic can’t play on the first line as he is too slow, can’t pass or score with the best player on the planet. Lucic can’t play on the second line because he is too slow , can’t pass except to the oppisition and drags Drai down . Lucic can’t play on the fourth line because that line has to be defence responsible and a shut down line ( Lucic is neither of the two). That would leave the third line and Lucic once again is to slow to play on that line and is a puck puking machine and can’t keep up. That leaves the press box, how long until Lucic would request a trade?

  • 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.

  • oilerjed

    Imagine last season with a healthy Klef and Larson, and a bonifide shooter on Connor’s and Drai’s wings. And Talbot being average. That season has a much better chance of following up the 2016/17 season with another winning season.
    I think players and agents are smart enough to recognize this while fans/media are too busy being furious with a losing season. My point is that there will still be a lot of players who will see the Oilers much closer to the cup then many fans do and McDavid is a draw that shouldn’t be overlooked. Look what he was capable of over the last 30ish games, if I’m a winger looking to make an NHL comeback that would be pretty enticing.
    I would give Kovy a chance for 2*2 mil and some performance bonuses.

    • RexHolez

      I think you’re dreaming. God love you for your optimism, but the oilers are a joke around the league. Perennial bottom feeders is how I think most people in hockey see the oilers because that’s what they are.

      • madjam

        Do not be so dense . as Oilers were highly totted before this last season . Expectations was to reach finals this year originally . A few new players might well get us back there to last years team . Kovalchuk would definitely look to Oilers in a return to NHL , if Oilers interested . Seeing as Chia does not cheap out , I would suspect Oilers would be in top 3 teams Kovalchuk might want to go to .

  • 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.

  • Fire Woodcroft!

    Hard pass. A guy who cares so little about his team that he walks in the middle of a long term contract that the team incurred penalties by signing in the first place?

    Not the kind of attitude that is going to turn the Oilers organization around…

  • 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.

  • crabman

    If I was Kovalchuk it would be a hard pass on Edmonton.
    If it was about money someone will be able to pay more.
    If I would take a value contract to try and win a cup there are other teams much closer to being real contenders next year.
    East coast travel is much easier. There bigger markets that can offer a better, more fun lifestyle. There are markets that have much better weather, cheaper housing market, and lower taxes.
    There are many reasons why a 35 year old coming back to the league would sign somewhere else. I can’t think of a single reason Edmonton would be on the top of his list.

    • Samesame

      I don’t entirely disagree. Edm prob isn’t on the top of his list by any stretch. But don’t underestimate the Connor factor.
      His presence alone vaulted edm from maybe the leagues most undesirable destination to middle of the pack.

      If kovy could be convinced the oilers can turn it around (not saying its foregone they will) it’s possible playing alongside Connor or Leon could interest him

      • crabman

        @Samesame, is that a risk you would take as a 35+ year old coming back to the league. The Oilers could turn things around next year.
        If his sole goal is to win he could sign a team friendly deal and go to Tampa Bay, Nashville, Vagas, Boston. All cup contenders this year and probably next year.
        If he was 31-32 I could see coming to Edmonton on a 1 year deal making some sense. If things work out you could sign on longer. If the team doesn’t have success there is still a very good chance he could have a strong individual season on McDavid’s wing that would make him even more desirable to every other team while also helping him cash in on a big final contract. But as a 35 year old I don’t think he has the time to risk signing with Edmonton.

  • Samesame

    Cares about money, selfish blah blah blah. Same ole old school mentality with nhl fans. He can score. That’s what we need.

    He’s a fitness freak and still in great shape. Owned at the Olympics and still the K. He’d cost nothing in terms of assets either.

    He most likely wouldn’t step in and immediately be one of the games best wingers again, but he’s good for 20+ and 50+ in his sleep.
    He’d be perfect on Leon’s wing as he’s a brilliant skater and a beast

    If we could get him short term, he’s a no brainer sign

  • crabman

    As the Oilers it would be a hard pass on Kovalchuk. As a 35+ year old FA he comes with his own set of risks.
    His salary and cap hit goes against the cap no matter what. If he gets injured there is no cap relief so there is no money to replace him so anything more than 1 year isn’t worth the risk. And with the limited money the Oilers have to work with next year we couldn’t afford to offer him much.
    If he were to come here on a Vanek type contract like last year in Vancouver sure but that isn’t going to happen. I would think it would be at minimum be like Radulov’s 1 year deal with Montreal a couple years ago.
    Add to that the distraction adding a Kovalchuk could add to the dressing room of a team that seemed mentally weak and distracted already this year could make things even worse.

  • I don’t see the fit from both sides.

    Kovy’s best bet is to drive his value up by talking to every team, keeping his options open, and his mouth shut as far as preference goes. I don’t see him wanting to finish his career in Alberta.

    From an Oilers point of view, I just can’t see it. He won’t come cheap.

  • freelancer

    If he was interested in signing a deal like the Radulov signing in Montreal. A one year 5-7 million dollar range I would consider it but he is not a player you want to risk signing long term.

  • C U Next Tuesday

    Pass. If you were signing Kovy from 5 years ago…great. But, that is not the case. What kind of GM will sign a guy to $4MMish x 2-3years that hasn’t played in the NHL for half a decade??? Wait a minute…I think the Oilers are the front runners!!!