If Toronto doesn’t make a splash on a forward in the unrestricted free agency pool, they may be able to look towards a player that’s unrestricted, with a catch. Ilya Kovalchuk’s name has been speculated about for a few months now across the league, and according to TSN insider Pierre Lebrun, he has a few teams in mind that he’d like to go to, one of which is the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Rangers, Blue Jackets and Leafs believed to be among the teams on Kovalchuk's wish list… not sure Toronto has any interest though…
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) July 1, 2017
Kovalchuk was tied to the Leafs about a month ago by Elliotte Friedman when he suggested that Lou Lamoriello might be okay with bringing back his former New Jersey superstar. Not much came out of that story afterward, but there’s been constant up-down regarding the 34-year-old’s intentions since; including suggestions that he might just stick around with the KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg after all.
As I was back in April, I’m still in favour of adding a player like Kovalchuk to the roster. He’s healthier than ever, he can get you a bunch of points, and he was pretty underrated as a penalty killer. With that said, the length of Kovalchuk’s shortlist and the interest of the teams involved will make a difference here. Using the two other teams in this tweet as an example; the Devils, who would have to move his rights to facilitate a move, have never made a deal with the Rangers due to the severity of their rivalry, so you may as well cross them out. Columbus, on the other hand, have been rumoured to be looking for a top-end winger for a while now, and are likely to be in a win-now state of mind with so much of their core up for contract renewal in the next year or two. If they start to get bid happy, tossing high picks and good prospects out there, then Toronto should probably stand pat.
In the meantime, while asset value is still an unknown, I’m still all for having him on the team.