Ilya Kovalchuk, owner of 417 goals and 399 assists in 816 games over parts of 12 NHL seasons, has told his agent to inform the New Jersey Devils, who own his rights, that he plans on returning to the NHL. The Islanders are likely to be one of the teams the SKA St. Petersburg winger would consider.
Kovalchuk, who signed a 15-year, $100M contract with the Devils in 2010, officially retired in July 2013. He would have to get official approval from the 30 other NHL clubs before being eligible to return. He has spent the last four seasons in the KHL, where has amassed 264 points (107 G, 157 A) in 245 games.
The Devils have let it be known that he would be available in a sign and trade. Now, obviously the man still has talent. He produced at a point a game pace in the NHL, and more so in the KHL. In his last season in the NHL, he played in the lockout shortened 2012-13 season. He had 31 points (11 G. 20 A) in 37 games.
Even at 34, he could be a real boost to the Islanders’ offense. He could provide a solid winger for John Tavares. He would be a name, and someone who has proven NHL experience. He has explosive scoring abilities, and could really jolt the Isles’ in the marketing department as well. A Tavares & Kovalchuk dynamic duo could be marketing gold.
There are however, a couple of issues.
It’s very difficult to commit to a guy who has not played at the NHL level in four years, especially for $6.6M a season. Secondly, he is signed through age 42. That is a terrible idea. Why not ask the Isles about Rick DiPietro or the Mets about Bobby Bonilla and July 1st?
Finally, Kovalchuk is not a free agent. The Islanders would have to give him something to the Devils to acquire him. While the Devils are really not in a bargaining position if he wants to be traded, who knows what they could be asking for? Is it worth it for the Isles to be giving up a top prospect for a guy who has not played a full NHL schedule since 2012? You really are playing with fire.
If he were not 34. or available as a free agent, and he could be signed for maybe $3M-$4M a season, absolutely it would be worth it. But, there are for more enticing things out there for the Isles this off-season. There’s no need to go after a guy on the downside of his career. If the Islanders are going to shell out money to a free agent, both T.J. Oshie and Alexander Radulov are scheduled to hit the open market.
Of course, right now, the Isles’ first task is to re-sign John Tavares to an extension. Once that hopefully gets done, the Islanders can focus on adding pieces. Tavares’ agent Pat Brisson told SiriusXM’s NHL Game Day his client likes the way things are going with the team with Scott Malkin at the helm.
Perhaps it’s best to not rock the boat right now. Kovalchuk may very well come back, but an appearance with the Isles is unlikely and unnecessary.