If the Boston Bruins made zero changes this offseason, they’d still be considered one of the NHL’s best teams entering the 2018-19 season.
That said, Boston reportedly could make a significant — like, really significant — splash in the free agent market.
Russian winger Ilya Kovalchuk, who left the NHL after the 2012-2013 season to play in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League, is eyeing a return to the United States. And over the weekend, TSN’s Darren Dreger reported the Bruins are among nine teams interested in signing the 35-year-old.
But just how serious of a player is Boston in the Kovalchuk sweepstakes?
Well, The Athletics’s Pierre LeBrun on Tuesday followed up Dreger’s report by claiming the Bruins are a “top contender” to sign the Russian superstar.
“Further to what my TSN colleague Darren Dreger reported over the weekend when he tweeted that Ilya Kovalchuk had weekend visits with Los Angeles and San Jose, my sense of the market for the Russian winger is made up of two groups,” LeBrun wrote. “The top contenders, I believe, are the Kings (who met with Kovalchuk on Friday), the Bruins, the Rangers and the Sharks (who met with him Monday). Then I think there’s a second group of teams including Detroit, St. Louis, Dallas and Anaheim.
“Now, other teams can still get involved, no question, but at this point, I think that’s your list, which is already pretty deep. Again, the hope from his camp led by CAA Sports (J.P. Barry) is to have an agreement on terms with a team (he can’t officially sign until July 1) right after the draft but before July 1.”
So, what would Boston gain in Kovalchuk?
Over the course of 12 NHL seasons with the Atlanta Thrashers (now Winnipeg Jets) and the New Jersey Devils, Kovalchuk had 10 seasons in which he scored at least 30 goals, including six 40-goal seasons and one 50-goal season. Sure, he’s probably not the same player he was five years ago, but anyone who’s watched Kovalchuk in the Olympics or World Hockey Championships knows he still is an elite goal scorer.
Whether Kovalchuck would be a good fit for the Bruins, who have made a concerted effort to get younger and quicker, is up for debate. But with fellow winger Rick Nash set to become an unrestricted free agent, a spot could open on Boston’s second line.
In fact, you could argue that Kovalchuk, a right-handed shooter, would be a better fit than Nash, who’s a lefty but primarily played right wing for Boston. The Bruins’ second line figures to have David Krejci back at center and lefty Jake DeBrusk on the left wing.
Of course, Boston also could slot lefty Ryan Donato in as the full-time right winger, a position he played well last season.
Ultimately, the Bruins don’t need Kovalchuk, as they’re loaded with young talent either already in the NHL or on the horizon. But if they want to give those players extra time to develop and instead go with a prove veteran option on the second line, then Kovalchuk would be a great choice.
Thumbnail photo via Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports Images
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