Ilya Kovalchuk has been linked to the New York Islanders, but the only way it will work is if there is a trade first then he can be signed.
In 99 percent of the scenarios, Ilya Kovalchuk doesn’t make sense for the New York Islanders. Even at age 35, he’s a top-six forward and the Isles have a plethora of guys who fit into that role. But what if there was a trade first?
Right now, the Islanders have Anders Lee, Josh Bailey, Brock Nelson, Anthony Beauvillier, Jordan Eberle, Josh Ho-Sang, Andrew Ladd and Kieffer Bellows who are best fits are on the wing. How could Kovalchuk possibly fit into that mix with all the guys listed above?
The only way I’m signing Kovalchuk is if Anders Lee is moved in a trade. No, it’s not as crazy as it seems either.
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A few months ago, I wrote why it might be a good idea to trade Lee this offseason. Trading away a 40 goal scorer seems crazy at the surface, but when you look a little deeper it’s not. Thanks to Garth Snow, the Islanders have some cap restraints (see Andrew Ladd, Casey Cizikas, Johnny Boychuk and Cal Clutterbuck).
So Anders Lee, who makes $3.75 million a year and is due a raise after next season, and Jordan Eberle are due a new deal after next season. In all likelihood, you can only retain one of them, and Eberle realistically makes more sense of the two.
Power forwards notoriously break down quickly after 30 years old. Look at Andrew Ladd, and Milan Lucic certainly seems to be heading down that path too. Both Ladd and Lucic are on regrettable contracts with plenty of years left eating away at the Islanders and Oilers cap space.
If you trade Lee, which may hurt for two years but will ultimately look okay when he’s three years into his new deal playing third line minutes, and acquire an elite, long-term, starting goalie that’s a win.
If that’s the case then you can sign Kovalchuk for one or two years at somewhere between $3 million and $4 million against the cap. Remember, he’s a point per game player in his NHL career, and last year had 63 points in 53 games in the KHL.
If you do that, maybe it leaves you with enough money to add a third line center too in free agency. A potential forward lineup can look like this:
Kovalchuk – Tavares – Bailey
Beauvillier – Barzal – Eberle
Ladd – Bozak – Ho-Sang/Bellows
Johnston – Cizikas – Clutterbuck
By the time Kovalchuk’s one or two year deal is up, Bellows will be ready to play with Tavares serving a similar role to what Lee did. If moving Lee can yield that defenseman or goalie you need you might just have to do it.
This is the only scenario where I think adding Kovalchuk works. If he’s signed to be another depth guy, that either bumps Beau down a line, which I don’t want, or is another bottom six forward making over $3 million against the cap.
I get the intrigue with Kovy, but let’s not forget what the real problem is and that’s defense and goalie. When that’s solved we can talk about Kovalchuk until the cows come home.