As the Washington Capitals’ Stanley Cup celebration rages on, the rest of the NHL is turning its eyes to free agency and the trade market. That includes one familiar name we’ve talked about ad nauseam over the last few years – Ilya Kovalchuk.
At 35, Kovalchuk’s return to the NHL is coming, but his specific destination appears to be undetermined. He was connected to the New York Rangers for quite some time, but it now appears that Kovalchuk is keeping his options open for the right fit and the right price.
Ilya Kovalchuk in California this weekend. Visited with the LA Kings yesterday and will meet with the Sharks tomorrow.
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) June 9, 2018
By the time you’re reading this, Kovalchuk has likely already met with the LA Kings and the San Jose Sharks. Those two teams can be added to a growing list of possible suitors who hope Kovy still has his same offensive touch.
In 2017-18, the Sharks had the 13th-best offense in the NHL with an average of 3.01 goals per game, while the Kings were 16th with an average of 2.89. Both teams are looking for offense after seasons with mixed reviews. The Kings currently have the smallest projected cap space heading into 2018-19 (just over $4.2 million), but they could make some other moves to squeeze Kovalchuk into the fold. Meanwhile, the Sharks have a projected $7.5 million in space and may have more flexibility when it comes to adding contracts.
Kovalchuk posted 31 goals and 32 assists in 53 games last year with St. Petersburg SKA of the KHL. While it’s difficult to draw any firm comparisons between offensive production in one league versus another, Kovalchuk should be a nice addition – if the price is fair – for any number of NHL teams.