Let’s nip this little piece of news in the bud. Yes, Ilya Kovalchuk is reported to want back in the NHL. And yes, it was reported that he wants to stay in New York City or Florida. No, that doesn’t mean the New York Islanders should be linked.
We know that the former New Jersey Devils winger Ilya Kovalchuk wants to return to the NHL. We’ve also been told that he wants to stay in New York City or go to Florida, according to Slava Malamud on Twitter. Indirectly implicating the New York Islanders.
Before we start hearing that this is the type of winger the Isles need to target to play alongside John Tavares, let’s point out a few things.
Father Time is Undefeated
First is his age. He’s by no means done with his career, but at 34-years-old he’s a lot closer to the end than he is from the start. He’s always been a physical specimen, standing 6’3″ and weighing 230lbs, he was fast, hard hitting. e was just like Alex Ovechkin, but marginally less productive. But father time always wins.
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He was just like Alex Ovechkin, but marginally less productive. Ovi has an average points per game of 1.12, Kovalchuk is a flat 1.00. But father time always wins.
The Isles don’t need to get older, they need to get younger and more skilled. The Isles are the 11th oldest team in the league in terms of average age.
What To Give Up
The New Jersey Devils still own Kovalchuk’s NHL rights. So if he isn’t going to stay with the Devils they now have a commodity they can shop to the highest bidder.
New Jersey is looking to rebuild, they need good young prospects. Which, to be fair, the Isles have. Especially when it comes to the blue line.
But just because Alexandre Radulov made a successful return to the NHL doesn’t mean that Kovalchuk will. What would the Isles have to give up to get an unknown commodity?
The Isles still have to live with the fact that they signed Andrew Ladd to seven years at a $5.5 million cap hit, and they knew they were getting diminishing returns from him. Or at least, they should have known that. Most of us did.
Draining the prospect pool, by any means, to a local and divisional rival makes no sense. They just won the first overall prospect this summer. That’s enough high-level youth for the Devils already.
Last season Kovalchuk scored 78 points in 60 games for SKA Saint-Petersburg in the regular season. In the playoffs, he and Pavel Datsyuk led SKA to the Gagarin Cup losing twice in 18 games.
It’s impressive certainly. But let’s not mortgage the future to acquire an aging forward who’s better days might just be behind him.
This all assumes that the NHL even lets him back in. Because he actually retired from the NHL, all 31 teams are going to have to approve his move back to the league. That’s assumption number one, that all 31 teams say “yay”.
Assumption number two is that he doesn’t want to play for Jersey. Who no longer have Lou Lamoriello at the helm. That in-and-of-itself might be appealing. Maybe Ilya desperately wanted to grow a beard like Brent Burns has now, and Uncle Lou wouldn’t let him.
If he doesn’t want to play for New Jersey, or they don’t want him, every team has to approve him going to someone else. That’s assumption three. Again, that every team says “yay”.
And the last assumption is that the Isles even want him. It possible. Elliotte Friedman said that interest would be “significant” for the Russian.
Most of those assumptions seem like they’ll hold true. Teams will probably allow him to return, he might not want to stay with Jersey (or they certainly won’t want him back), teams will also ‘OK’ him leaving. My hope is that the Isles stay well away.
The Isles know what they have right now, and they know what they have coming through the pipeline. Barzal, Ho-Sang and Pulock look like locks for the team next season. They ended the season 24-12-4, let’s not mess with a good thing.