This weekend a report surfaced that Ilya Kovalchuk was visiting the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks. There wasn’t any indication whether those teams would eventually land the Russian sniper, but he was at least willing to speak with them ahead of his signing period that begins on July 1st. Now, in a report from Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic (subscription required) the market for Kovalchuk becomes more clear.
LeBrun lists the Kings, Sharks, Boston Bruins and New York Rangers as the “top contenders” for the 35-year old sniper, with a second group of interested parties including the Detroit Red Wings, St. Louis Blues, Dallas Stars and Anaheim Ducks. Darren Dreger of TSN also believes that Detroit is in the mix, while Craig Custance of The Athletic (subscription required) has heard that the Red Wings want to bring him aboard. Custance also lists the Tampa Bay Lightning as a possibility if Kovalchuk is willing to sign a short-term deal.
Interestingly, the New York Islanders were not listed among the interested teams despite Kovalchuk’s obvious connection with GM Lou Lamoriello. Arthur Staple of The Athletic added to that when he tweeted that the Islanders were “not in the main circle of interest” something that doesn’t seem so surprising when they have their own star free agent to get under contract in the coming weeks. While no Lamoriello-run team should ever be counted out of anything because of a lack of information, the Islanders don’t appear to be the best fit for Kovalchuk, who wants to win a Stanley Cup and doesn’t have a lot of years left to do it.
Kovalchuk can agree to terms with anyone in the league right now, but will have to wait until July 1st to actually sign a contract. He’s obviously taking his time to speak with anyone interested, but it seems as though there are plenty of teams willing to take a chance on him. Remember any contract he signs will count against the cap regardless of whether he retires or not, while he can only receive performance bonuses if he agrees to a one-year deal.