Are the Bruins and Kovar a Good Fit?

The Boston Bruins have signed Jan Kovar to a Professional Tryout Offer with the Providence Bruins.

The 28-year-old center has spent his entire career playing overseas, spending five seasons with Plzen HC in the Czech League and five seasons with Magnitogorsk Metallurg in the KHL. It was his time in the KHL that really brought attention to him from North American clubs, however, as he scored a very impressive 97 goals and 286 points in 285 games.

Kovar and Islanders Had a Bad Split

When the New York Islanders signed him to a one-year, $2 million contract this offseason, it was expected that he’d be able to help fill the void left by John Tavares down the middle. Nobody was thinking he’d replicate anywhere close to the production that Tavares brought, but bringing in a center who was a proven point producer in one of the best leagues in the world was a step in the right direction.

John Tavares
Toronto Maple Leafs center John Tavares (Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports)

Things didn’t go quite as planned early on for Kovar, however, and the Islanders opted to send him to the AHL to hone his craft on North American ice after years spent playing on the larger ice surface overseas. That’s where things went south between the two parties as Kovar didn’t report to Bridgeport (the Islanders’ AHL affiliate) and the team placed him on unconditional waivers to terminate his contract.

Fast forward just a few weeks and Kovar is now signing in the AHL on a PTO after refusing to play there for a cool $2 million. It’s unclear what changed between then and now, but the Bruins are giving Kovar a chance to skate in their system and learn with their AHL affiliate as the veteran evaluates his options over the next few weeks.

Kovar is a Relatively Unknown Commodity

Though Kovar was a great talent in the KHL, his production didn’t come without fault. When he signed his NHL contract, Igor Eronko mentioned that Kovar’s success in the KHL came alongside Sergei Mozyakin and Danis Karipov – two players that he had great chemistry with who formed one of the best lines in the league and potentially the world. Interestingly enough, when Zaripov left the team, Kovar’s production promptly dropped.

Czech Republic forward Jan Kovar
Czech Republic forward Jan Kovar (David E. Klutho-USA TODAY Sports)

In the four seasons that Kovar played alongside Zaripov, he scored 90 goals and 251 points in 231 games. He would also add 28 goals and 83 points in 72 playoff games. In his one season without Zaripov, Kovar would only score seven goals and 35 points in 54 games before adding four goals and eight points in 11 postseason games.

It’s for this reason that the Islanders wanted to see Kovar in the AHL and why the Bruins decided to bring him in for a look after that ultimately didn’t happen.

There’s no telling just how good Kovar could be in the NHL. Whether he’s good enough to make a roster as an impact player, as a role player or fails to make a roster altogether, though, this move is still a good one for the Bruins.

No Risk Bringing Kovar in for the Bruins

With no risk involved, the Bruins are going to get a chance to evaluate Kovar and see if he fits what they’re looking for in a potential third-line center behind Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci. The Bruins third line center role has been up in the air this season and though David Backes has taken the majority of the faceoffs on that line so far, the team has already tried three players at the position six games into the year.

David Backes Boston Bruins
David Backes (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

If Kovar decides to sign with another NHL club or he fails to make an impact on North American ice and opts to return to the KHL, the Bruins would still be left without any negative consequences from this scenario. It’s a deal that has zero-risk, high-reward potential and the Bruins were wise to get a first-hand look at evaluating him up close.

Related: BSC’s Bruins’ Mailbag: DeBrusk, Trades, Prospects & More

With reports coming from Darren Dreger that the Bruins are keeping tabs on veteran forwards, specifically centers who could impact the team in the present, Kovar is a sneaky-good add by the team to try and avoid moving assets. There may be a log-jam at forward on the team and Anders Bjork, Danton Heinen and Ryan Donato may be playing inconsistent hockey at best to start the season, but giving up on them so early for a veteran seems counter-intuitive to long-term success.

Time will tell how Kovar could impact the roster but for now, the Bruins will get a chance to make some in-house evaluations and decide on potential deals later.