The Montreal Canadiens have agreed to terms on a one-year, two-way contract worth $700,000 at the NHL level with forward Ilya Kovalchuk, the team announced Friday. The deal will last through the remainder of the 2019-20 season.
The 36-year-old Kovalchuk has scored three goals and nine points through 17 games this season while averaging just 15:25 of ice time per game with the Los Angeles Kings.
Kovalchuk’s Return to the NHL Has Been a Disappointment
Returning to the NHL last season following a five-year absence from the league, Kovalchuk’s most recent stint in the league hasn’t gone exactly as planned for the veteran.
Scoring 19 goals and 43 points in 81 games over the last two seasons and finding himself relegated to a fourth-line role and even being scratched altogether more than once, Kovalchuk and the Kings simply weren’t meant to be.
This wasn’t great for the Kings given the fact that Kovalchuk had signed a three-year deal worth $18.75 million to join the team in hopes of helping them return to playoff form.
Still, the Canadiens are hoping that Kovalchuk’s stint with the Kings was more an anomaly than the rule. It isn’t hard to understand why the Kings would have wanted to sign Kovalchuk and why other teams like the Boston Bruins were so keen on getting him in their lineup as well given his success in the KHL just prior to his NHL return.
For this reason, the Canadiens signing Kovalchuk to such an inexpensive deal makes sense as the try and add scoring to their lineup without much risk.
Canadiens Buying-Low and Filling Major Roster Needs
For the Canadiens, this deal will account for just $350,000 against their salary cap for the remainder of the season and is as buy-low a deal as it gets.
In the five seasons he spent in the KHL following the end of his run with the New Jersey Devils, Kovalchuk would score 120 goals and 285 points in only 262 games, including 31 goals and 63 points in 53 games in his final season with SKA St. Petersburg and 32 goals and 78 points in 60 games the season prior.
He’s also one of the most dominant goal-scorers in the history of the NHL and has proven he can get it down in this league in the past.
In 897 NHL games, the 6-foot-3, 222-pound winger has scored 436 goals and 859 points. He’s also scored 11 goals and 27 points in 32 career playoff contests.
At 36 years old, he may not be the same player he once was, but he certainly still has enough left in the tank to justify this deal for Montreal.
This deal comes just one day after the Canadiens would also buy-low on defender Marco Scandella. The team would trade a fourth-round pick to the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday in exchange for the veteran defender and Montreal-native with an eye towards fixing the biggest hole in their lineup.
With Scandella and Kovalchuk on the squad, the Canadiens have instantly shored up some big needs on the team for the cost of under $2.5 million cap space this season and a fourth-round pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.
As far as decision-making goes, Marc Bergevin has been hit-or-miss in the past. In recent history, however, the team’s general manager has seemingly hit all the right buttons and made all the right moves as he tries to bring the Canadiens back to playoff contention.