Ilya Kovalchuk scored 43 points in 81 games over two seasons with Los Angeles. That’s a respectable total. Not for the $6.25 million the Kings were paying Kovalchuk, but that’s no longer the problem for other teams with Kovalchuk on waivers for contract termination purposes.
Can Kovalchuk still be a contributing NHL player? Or is he destined to return to the KHL?
Per source Ilya Kovalchuk wants to sign with a contender and would be OK with a minimum salary. Bruins are interested
— Igor Eronko (@IgorEronko) December 17, 2019
Kovalchuk is reportedly interested in remaining in the NHL, which should be a possibility without his bloated contract attached to him. Should the Oilers look into Kovalchuk for the remainder of the season? They need wingers and Kovalchuk can still score a bit.
Todd McLellan wasn’t a big fan of Kovalchuk and neither was 2018-19 interim coach Willie Desjardins. Would Dave Tippett be different?
Kovalchuk averaged the least amount of ice time in his career in his two seasons in Los Angeles. Kovalchuk obviously isn’t the elite player he used to be, but that matters less when he’s no longer making $6.25 million a season.
Kovalchuk is a drag in terms of shot attempts, but he was never a guy who dominated that area. His 15 five-on-five goals since 2018-19 would be fifth for forwards on the Oilers.
The Oilers need wingers. No one should forget that Zack Kassian is currently on their first line. After the three on the top line and Nugent-Hopkins, the highest-producing five-on-five player is Sam Gagner. Yes, Gagner, who has only dressed 17 games after clearing waivers at the beginning of the season. Oilers shouldn’t thumb their nose as at useful NHL winger available.
Against the Dallas Stars on Monday, the Oilers had Joakim Nygard and Kassian flanking McDavid, James Neal and Sam Gagner with Draisaitl on the second line, and Alex Chiasson and Jujhar Khaira beside Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on the third line. If Tippett’s intention is to run McDavid, Draisaitl, and Nugent-Hopkins on their own lines acquiring another winger makes sense. Kovalchuk doesn’t cost any additional assets, only a contract for the remainder of the season.
Kassian is probably a better fit for the McDavid line due to his skating, which seems almost crazy to say but Kovalchuk is 36-years old. Father Time comes for everyone. The Oilers have another similar player to Kovalchuk in James Neal. Neal isn’t the same player he was even a few years ago. Kovalchuk is the more productive player five-on-five at this point, but the Oilers are committed to Neal for this season at least.
Kovalchuk doesn’t kill penalties anymore and he’s clearly lost a step since his glory days. The Oilers need help up front and Kovalchuk only has to be more productive than a Gagner or Khaira if the Oilers have McDavid, Draisaitl and Nugent-Hopkins on their own lines. Edmonton isn’t a Stanley Cup contender, so this might all be moot anyway, but Kovalchuk only costs a contract slot which might be attractive to Ken Holland, who probably doesn’t want to spend assets on a season he didn’t think they’d be that good.
Ultimately, the Oilers should aim higher than Kovalchuk if they want to bolster their forwards but a low-cost contract for the rest of the season wouldn’t hurt.