Ilya Kovalchuk is on his way to the Atlantic Division — just not with the Boston Bruins.
The free-agent goal-scorer has agreed to a one-year deal with the Montreal Canadiens, the team announced Friday. The contract, effective for the rest of the season, is a two-way deal for the NHL minimum. That means Kovalchuk will make $700,000 if he’s playing in the NHL and $70,000 if he’s in the AHL.
At the height of his career, Kovalchuk was one of the NHL’s premier goal-scorers. However, he experienced a pretty dramatic drop in production recently, reaching a low point with the Los Angeles Kings. His time with the Kings was a disaster, prompting LA to put him on waivers earlier this season, eventually leading to his release.
In 17 games with the Kings this season, Kovalchuck scored just three goals to go along with six assists and was a minus-10. His 15:25 of ice time per game was the lowest of his career and about six minutes lower than his career average.
Still, it’s a small-risk move for the Canadiens, who have fallen out of the playoff field following a pretty strong start to the season. Montreal, currently marred in a four-game losing streak, sits six points behind Tampa Bay for the third spot in the Atlantic Division and seven points behind Philadelphia for the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot. And as Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston points out, there’s not a lot of financial investment with the season already being half-completed.
At most this signing will cost Montreal $350,000 in actual salary paid. At any point they can place Kovalchuk on waivers and remove his cap hit with an AHL assignment.
It's basically as low-risk/no-risk as these deals come.
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) January 3, 2020
There was some speculation about whether the Bruins might kick the tires on Kovalchuk after his divorce with the Kings. Boston was in the running to sign the Russian winger in the summer of 2018, but Kovalchuk ultimately chose the Kings, signing a three-year, $18.75 million deal.
Thumbnail photo via Candice Ward/USA TODAY Sports Images