Ilya Kovalchuk was expected by many to be traded at the deadline. On Sunday, he was moved from the Montreal Canadiens to the Washington Capitals. In return, the Canadiens received a third round draft pick in the 2020 National Hockey League Entry Draft according to nhl.com.
Kovalchuk shared his time this season with the Los Angeles Kings and Canadiens. In 39 games, Kovalchuk had nine goals and 13 assists for 22 points, was a -4, with 14 penalty minutes, five power play points, three game winning goals, 97 shots on goal, eight faceoff wins, 20 blocked shots, 40 hits, nine takeaways and 25 giveaways.
The Capitals become Kovalchuk’s fifth National Hockey League team. In addition to the Canadiens and Kings, Kovalchuk has played for the Atlanta Thrashers and the New Jersey Devils. In a remarkable statistic, the Devils, Capitals, Kings and Canadiens are all paying Kovalchuk at the moment.
Kovalchuk has also had great success in his career while playing for Russia internationally. He has won the gold medal for Russia at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, the gold medal for Russia at the 2008 International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada and Quebec City, Quebec, Canada, and the 2009 International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships in Bern, Switzerland. The 2008 World Hockey Championships was famous because it was the only time the tournament has ever been held in Canada.
Also while with Russia, Kovalchuk was part of significant controversy at the 2015 International Ice Hockey Federation World Hockey Championship in the Czech Republic. Kovalchuk and his Russian teammates left the ice after losing 6-1 in the gold medal game to Canada and prior to the playing of “O Canada”. The Russians claimed the incident was a misunderstanding, but this was not the belief of the IIHF.
Kovalchuk will need to improve his defense with the Capitals, something he improved on while with the Canadiens, where he was a +6 in 22 games. In 919 NHL regular season games, Kovalchuk was a -146.
Offense has never been a problem for Kovalchuk. In 2003-04, he led the NHL with 41 goals and 341 shots on goal. In 2005-06 with the Thrashers, Kovalchuk led the NHL with 27 power play goals, and in 2012-13 with the Devils, led the NHL with four shorthanded goals.