Elliotte Friedman brought the Ilya Kovalchuk speculation back into the public eye yesterday, noting that the Russian former superstar is still interested in coming back to the NHL during the “Headlines” second intermission segment.
Here are the juicy bits of what he had to say, via Sportsnet.ca:
“There were reports this week that Ilya Kovalchuk would stay in the KHL and not come back to North America,” Friedman said during Saturday night’s broadcast. “Word out of the Scouting Combine is that is not the case, that Kovalchuk is still very much interested in playing in the NHL next season.” ..
“I won’t be surprised if some of the interest comes from people who know him—maybe like a Peter DeBoer of San Jose, Martin Brodeur in St. Louis, possibly even a Lou Lamoriello in Toronto,” Friedman said on Saturday. ..
“It’s a complex deal because of New Jersey and getting him signed,” explained Friedman, “but the word is that teams are saying Kovalchuk still wants to come to North America.”
This is particularly noteworthy because of the Toronto connection. When I did my deep dive into this discussion in April, I brought up that I believed the Leafs would be interested in him for similar reasons:
As far as management goes, there’s an easy line to be drawn here in Lou Lamoriello. Lamoriello was the General Manager in New Jersey when they acquired Kovalchuk at the 2010 trade deadline, he was the GM who orchestrated (and paid the price for) his contract, and he was the GM who helped him through the retirement process, which we can all admit probably helped the Devils due to the length of the term as much as it helped Kovalchuk’s personal situation.
New Jersey Devils GM Ray Shero talked about the situation with NHL.com earlier in the week, and said it sounded like Kovalchuk’s plan was still to come to North America, but he wasn’t sure of any exact commitments. As far as negotiating trades, Shero hasn’t bothered getting to that stage without a list, which is probably positive for the Leafs if they’re interested. It’s better to have negotiations when you’re one of the only teams (if not the only team) that the player would like to go to, rather than having a bidding war.
My big-picture feelings on the situation haven’t changed. Kovalchuk, who had great results in what many believe to be his first healthy season in a long time in 2016/17, would add depth to an already strong forward core and could be a lethal option on the point on one of Toronto’s powerplay units.