The Montreal Canadiens look like they struck gold in January when they signed recently released Ilya Kovalchuk to a minimum-salary, two-way deal on Jan. 3. The former NHL and then KHL star looked like his days of making an impact at the NHL level were gone, but the team took the chance and brought him aboard.
Now it seems with their playoff chances waning, general manager Marc Bergevin might be getting ready to move the veteran winger with plenty of capped-out playoff teams likely to get into line to bring the veteran star aboard for a playoff run. However, the price is likely to be high as TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that several teams have reported that Bergevin’s asking price is no less than a second-round pick to rent him for the remainder of the season.
The cost could make sense despite the fact that Kovalchuk’s NHL career looked to be over after the Kings placed him on unconditional waivers to get rid of him. The 36-year-old has posted five goals and nine points in 11 games for Montreal and showed the team great leadership, which has been invaluable to many of the team’s younger players. That is another reason why Bergevin is also considering signing Kovalchuk to an extension before the deadline as well. Of course, any thoughts that L.A. could be garnering that pick forget that the Kings are still on the hook next season for $6.25MM when they terminated his contract. The key to Montreal’s jackpot is that Kovachuk’s new deal is worth just $700K.
It’s likely that a decision on the veteran isn’t going to be made until the final days before the trade deadline. Much will depend on whether the Canadiens feel they could get a second-rounder (or possibly even more) for Kovalchuk or the direction the team is heading down as we get into late February, although a playoff run still seems unlikely. Regardless, Kovalchuk has been a steal for the Canadiens who risked little to bring him aboard and will get rewarded for it one way or another.