So. The Montreal Canadiens have decided to kick off 2020 by signing Ilya Kovalchuk.
Without question, Montreal is in a sort of emergency situation here. As general manager Marc Bergevin pointed out when he announced the signing of Kovalchuk, Jonathan Drouin, Brendan Gallagher, Joel Armia, and Paul Byron are all out of action. Only Gallagher will be back soon, if we’re being honest.
And the particulars of the deal make signing Kovalchuk kind of a decent deal – or a low risk contract. It’s worth just $700,000 at the NHL level and $70,000 in the AHL and it’s a two-way contract.
That’s a far cry off the three-year, $18.75 million deal the Los Angeles Kings had to terminate in December, three months into his second season with the club. That experiment failed, in large part because it was too high a cost to pay an underperforming alleged star player.
But now, with the Kings still stuck with a chunk of Kovalchuk’s cap hit, the Habs are taking an easy swing.
And the power is all theirs, with Montreal holding the option to kick him off to waivers at any point if they don’t like what they see. That dumps any cap hit and sends him to the AHL.
In many ways, the story isn’t what the Canadiens are doing but how far Kovalchuk has fallen.
Once upon a time, the Russian was considered one of the more talented goal-scorers in the NHL. He put up at least 30 goals in nine consecutive seasons before splitting to the KHL. He scored at least 50 goals twice, too.
Consider, then, that Kovalchuk was once the recipient of a deal so lavish that it went down in history. The New Jersey Devils inked him to a monstrous 15-year contract worth $100 million. This after he turned down two huge contracts from Atlanta’s Don Waddell, one of which was a 12-year deal worth $101 million.
Kovalchuk, no matter how he leaves the game, may be remembered more for his contracts than his play – and that’s a shame. He was at times a dynamic scorer, as his stat line proves, but he was also the cause of a lot of fiscal headaches. That will continue as he ventures into Montreal, even though Bergevin has the honour of taking the lowest risk of all.
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