The Boston Bruins have already been linked to Russian free agent and former NHL superstar Ilya Kovalchuk this off-season, but GM Don Sweeney confirmed the interest today, telling NHL.com’s Amalie Benjamin that he will speak with Kovalchuk and his camp in the coming days. The Bruins are seeking to add a veteran scoring winger to their top six for next season and, if they don’t resign trade deadline acquisition Rick Nash, Kovalchuk could be a suitable replacement. Kovalchuk has already met with the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks, while the Detroit Red Wings, New York Rangers, and Dallas Stars are among others who would like to outbid the Bruins for the big-name import.
Kovalchuk, 35, has been one of if not the best player in the KHL since he bolted from the New Jersey Devils in 2013. Sweeney still believes that the veteran sniper has the ability to left to translate those numbers back to the NHL. A big, strong shooter, Kovalchuk would not only add more talent and some balance to the Bruins roster, but would also be a great stylistic role model for a player like Jake DeBrusk, who he would likely skate beside with center David Krejci. However, the Bruins also liked the chemistry that those two players shared with Nash prior to his concussion late in the regular season. Sweeney stated that they remain in communication with Nash and that financially a deal with one of Nash or Kovalchuk would all but rule out the signing of the other.
If the decision were left up to Ty Anderson of The Sports Hub, he would gladly take Kovalchuk. The Bruins beat writer believes that the Russian goal scorer is the exact kind of gamble that Boston should take this summer to add a difference-maker that can balance their top six. Anderson notes that the Kovalchuk played right wing alongside Zach Parise in New Jersey and found great success and could do the same in Boston. His scoring touch could be what it takes to bring together a Bruins’ second line that paled in comparison to the league’s best line – Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak– last year.
Both Sweeney and Anderson note that the financial flexibility may be needed to sign Kovalchuk – or Nash – to his desired contract. TSN’s Darren Dreger and Pierre LeBrun said the same on “Insider Trading” today, adding that the Bruins would like to move David Backes this summer and may even consider trading Krejci in the right move to free up space. The duo also bring up an interesting twist that the Kovalchuk sweepstakes is having on the trade market. They feel that the suitors for Carolina Hurricanes winger Jeff Skinner are largely the same as those talking to Kovalchuk. They name the Bruins, alongside the Kings and Sharks, as the teams that could look at Skinner if they were to miss out on Kovalchuk. Nash, Kovalchuk, Skinner, and the off-season is just getting started in Boston. A big move could be on the horizon for the Bruins.