By: Colin Noonan
The most intriguing free agent of the summer may be John Tavares, but the second most would have to be Ilya Kovalchuk. After a five year hiatus in Russia with SKA St. Petersburg, the former Atlanta Thrasher and New Jersey Devil is set to return to the NHL this summer.
There are some links between the Islanders and Kovalchuk. According to Newsday, the Islanders were one of the final three teams in the Kovalchuk sweepstakes, along with the Kings and the Devils, in the summer of 2010. New Islanders boss Lou Lamoriello was the man who ultimately signed Kovalchuk when he was with the Devils. According to TSN’s Elliotte Friedman, Kovalchuk wants to play in New York, seemingly narrowing it down to the Islanders and the Rangers.
I think it would make a ton of sense for Kovalchuk. He would get the New York location he’s looking for and adding Kovalchuk to an offense that already features Tavares, rookie sensation Mat Barzal, Anders Lee, and Jordan Eberle would surely have the Islanders at or near the top of every offensive category in the league. The Rangers are also just getting a rebuild underway so at 35 you’d have to wonder in Kovalchuk would want to join a team that’s at least two or three years from contending.
From the Islanders perspective, I think it makes somewhat less sense. According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, Kovalchuk is looking for a contract either two or three years in length with a value of around $6 million. Aside from John Tavares, Ryan Pulock and Calvin de Haan are due for contracts this summer. Anders Lee and Jordan Eberle are up for contracts next summer, and Mat Barzal is eligible to being extension negotiations next summer as well.
For me, the only way signing Kovalchuk makes sense is if Tavares re-signs and Anders Lee is traded for the defensive help this team desperately needs. Otherwise, there really isn’t a spot for him on the left side either with Tavares or Barzal and this team simply cannot afford to pay a 35 year old $6 million to play on the third line.
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