Welcome to the OilersNation UFA preview. Over the next 15 days, we’ll be profiling the top 30 players in this year’s UFA class, as listed by TSN. Contract information is from our friends at Puckpedia. Full UFA list via puckpedia here. Analytics provided by hockeyviz.com and naturalstattrick.com. Contract projections are done by evolving-hockey.com with the presumption contracts are signed between Aug. – Oct. 11.
Today, we’re looking at the 24th ranked Ilya Kovalchuk and 23rd ranked Corey Crawford.
After “retiring” from the NHL and spending five seasons in the KHL, Ilya Kovalchuk made his return to North America in 2018-19 by inking a three-year deal with the Los Angeles Kings.
It was kind of a weird fit given the fact that Father Time had caught up with the Kings and the Cup-chasing Kovalchuk was joining a roster on the downswing.
Kovalchuk had a decent first season in L.A., posting 16 goals in 64 games but then struggled mightily in 2019-20, scoring just three goals in 17 games. Kovalchuk had such a bad time with the Kings he left the team and the two sides agreed to mutually terminate his contract.
As a free agent, Kovalchuk inked a mid-season deal with the Montreal Canadiens. He looked much, much better as a Hab, scoring six goals and 13 points in 22 games before getting dealt to the Washington Capitals at the trade deadline. He would score four points in seven games with the Caps before the season was paused but just one point in eight games in the playoffs.
Kovalchuk is now 37 years old and it seems he wants to continue on in the NHL.
Contract Projection: One year, $2,328,000 AAV.
Should the Oilers be interested? Meh. The idea of Kovalchuk as Connor McDavid’s triggerman is probably better in theory than in practice. If it was a cheap, one-year deal, then sure, it could be worth the gamble, but Kovalchuk seems as though he could be more of a distraction than a benefit at this point.
After struggling with injuries in 2017-18 and 2018-19 and being limited to just 28 and 39 games, Corey Crawford enjoyed a nice bounceback season this year sharing Chicago’s net with Robin Lehner.
Crawford posted a .917 save percentage over the course of 40 games and then helped backstop the Hawks to a play-in round upset against the Oilers. Before that series against the Oilers, there was doubts that Crawford would be fit to play as he was dealing with a mystery injury, but he managed to come back right at the last minute and perform well.
Crawford is now 35 years old and it seems the two-time Stanley Cup winner still has something left in the tank, though his history with injuries (concussions, in particular) is worrying.
Contract Projection: Two years, $4,000,000 AAV.
Should the Oilers be interested? No. It’s hard to imagine the Blackhawks and Crawford parting ways at this point, and, even if they do, signing a goalie with Crawford’s injury history is an incredibly massive risk, no matter how much upside and veteran pedigree he has.