There has been a lot of talk surrounding Ilya Kovalchuk and the Montreal Canadiens since the day he signed with the team just over one month ago. At first it was about the Canadiens being the only team to give him a chance after he fell out of favor with the Los Angeles Kings. Today, it’s about how many teams realized what kind of opportunity they missed.
The moment he started producing in Montreal, he became an attractive trade target. Playing for the Canadiens for the NHL’s league minumum, he’s the perfect rental for a lot of teams. As such, his name has been talked about and will continue to be talked about until Feb 24 comes and goes.
With how much Kovalchuk’s name is bound to be tossed around, here’s everything worth knowing when it comes to rumors surrounding the veteran forward.
What’s Kovalchuk Worth?
According to Pierre LeBrun, belief from some teams is that the price to rent out Kovalchuk for the rest of the season is no less than a second-round draft pick. Considering he was picked up for almost nothing and seemingly passed over by 30 other NHL teams, that’s a fairly high ask.
At this stage, whether a team is willing to part with a second-round pick to acquire Kovalchuk is unclear but there are multiple teams who have been apparently given this message.
“I think a fourth-round pick is the best they’re going to get at this point,” one assistant GM said. But, he did leave the statement open to revision if Kovalchuk keeps scoring. And, with five goals and 11 points in 14 games for the Canadiens, he may just do so.
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The Latest on Kovalchuk Talks
Eric Engels of Sportsnet reports that the Boston Bruins, Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames have all recently shown some interest in Ilya Kovalchuk. And, those are just the teams he knows about.
It seems logical all three teams would consider moving a mid-round pick to pry him from the Canadiens and at the low cost associated to adding him to the roster salary wise, both the cap-strapped Oilers and Bruins could make his contract work.
It would be silly to discount interest from teams like St. Louis, Colorado, Washington or other organizations who are playoff bound and looking for inexpensive contracts they don’t need to commit to beyond this season. Again, Kovalchuk looks attractive there. And, with so many teams not out of the running yet, — teams like Vegas, Toronto and Arizona all fighting to stay in the race — expect more teams to be mentioned in the same sentence. But, as more teams hop into the mix, Kovalchuk’s price goes up.
What About An Extension?
Kovalchuk appears happy with his role in Montreal but he’s refused to talk about the idea of an extension with the team. He told reporters that he didn’t want to talk about his future, indicating the focus should be on working towards the Canadiens clawing their way back into the playoff picture.
The Canadiens aren’t technically out of it. Back within five points of the final Atlantic Division playoff spot (with three more games played than the Florida Panthers), there is a chance a winning streak gets them into the mix. If so, it would be hard to imagine the team trading a piece that’s been pivotal in getting them to that point, even if it looks like a long-term future in Montreal isn’t in the cards.
But, from Montreal’s perspective, there’s certainly interest there. Pierre LeBrun has reported on the idea of the Canadiens wanting to extend Kovalchuk because they see him as a positive impact both on ice and in the room. It’s simply a matter of whether or not Kovalchuk sees his strong play as a way to maximize his value, even if that’s with another team.
Kovalchuk is a veteran NHL’er. He understands how the “business” of hockey works. In his own head, he probably realizes the chances of him being moved are pretty good.
All that said, if all the Canadiens can get is a fourth-round pick, it makes sense to hang on to the player. “If they were smart, they would keep him,” one GM said. “It has been a great signing.” And, if there’s a mutual interest on Kovalchuk’s part to stick around, there’s no harm in the Canadiens offering a one-year deal full of performance bonuses.
If the trade offers start to increase and the Canadiens lose a couple in a row, expect as many as eight or nine teams to be mentioned when it comes to Kovalchuk trade talks. At that point, his being moved is all but a foregone conclusion.
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Jim Parsons is a senior THW freelance writer, part-time journalist and audio/video host who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes NHL news and rumors, while also writing features on the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been a trusted source for five-plus years at The Hockey Writers, but more than that, he’s on a mission to keep readers up to date with the latest NHL rumors and trade talk. Jim is a daily must for readers who want to be “in the know.”