One of the biggest question marks this summer is the potential return of KHL superstar Ilya Kovalchuk. Though he’s made it known he wants to return to the NHL this season, there isn’t a clear front-runner to sign the 35-year old winger. The teams in New York and Florida were reported as his preferred destinations last summer, but now that he is an unrestricted free agent there could be any number of teams reaching out. Indeed we heard recently that his new agent J.P. Barry has been discussing Kovalchuk with several teams, but don’t know who those are.
The Rangers were once believed to be interested, though now that they’re heading into a mini-rebuild could avoid going after the veteran forward. After trading Ryan McDonagh, J.T. Miller, Derek Stepan, Rick Nash and more over the last few years, New York is trying to get faster and younger to compete in the new NHL. Kovalchuk doesn’t really fit that mold, but would certainly be a big attraction at Madison Square Garden should he end up there.
Florida could use some more firepower up front and has former teammate Evgeni Dadonov under contract, but might be happy plugging in younger options like Henrik Borgstrom and Maxim Mamin. The Panthers also aren’t flush with cap room, unless Kovalchuk was one of their only moves of the summer. Still, they could be an enticing option if they believe that the team can compete in 2018-19.
The Islanders are probably the most interesting contender right now, as they’re in one of his preferred destinations and just hired Lou Lamoriello, the same man who signed Kovalchuk to a 15-year $100MM contract in 2010. Obviously Lamoriello felt strongly about Kovalchuk’s talent at that point, but there’s no telling what he thinks this time around. The Islanders are working to re-sign John Tavares and compete right away, and adding a five-time 40-goal man wouldn’t hurt either situation.
Where do you think Kovalchuk will land? Does he stay on the east coast as expected last summer, or will he end up out west? Is Lamoriello the one to bring him back to the NHL, or has that bridge been burned? Vote below and make sure to leave your explanation in the comments.
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