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.

Deadline Targets: Dealing with the Devils

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?


    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.

  • 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…

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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!!!

    • 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…

  • 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.

  • 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 .

  • 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.

    • 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.

  • 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.