NHL Rumor Mill – June 13, 2018
Latest on Ilya Kovalchuk plus an update on the Canucks in your NHL rumor mill.
THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun believes the top contenders for unrestricted free agent winger Ilya Kovalchuk include the Los Angeles Kings (who met with Kovalchuk on Friday), the Boston Bruins, New York Rangers and San Jose Sharks (who met with him on Monday). He thinks the Detroit Red Wings, St. Louis Blues, Dallas Stars and Anaheim Ducks could also have interest.
LeBrun’s colleague Kevin Kurz noted there’s mutual respect between Kovalchuk and Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer, who coached the winger during their days with the New Jersey Devils. If the Sharks sign Kovalchuk to a deal comparable to that of Toronto’s Patrick Marleau (three years, $18.75 million), it’ll take them out of the running for New York Islanders center John Tavares if he tests this summer’s UFA market. Kurz sees the Sharks’ interest at this point as simply kicking the tires, pointing out their biggest need remains at center, not on the wing.
Jeremy Rutherford lists several reasons why Kovalchuk might make sense for the Blues. Given Kovalchuk’s goal-scoring prowess, he could help the Blues’ woeful power play. He’s also a right-handed shot, which the Blues have in short supply. They have the cap room to sign him and wouldn’t have to give up player assets to get him. However, Rutherford thinks they could balk at signing a 35-year-old player to a lengthy, expensive contract.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Joe Haggerty noted the reports of the Bruins having interest in Kovalchuk. He feels the winger would be a better investment than re-signing pending UFA winger Rick Nash. He thinks a “short-term, bigger-money deal with Kovalchuk would be less of a gamble with no player assets sacrificed”.
TSN: Darren Dreger reports the Red Wings are believed among the teams making a push for Kovalchuk.
FRS HOCKEY: Chris Nichols cited Bob McKenzie’s appearance Monday on Winnipeg’s TSN 1290 discussing Kovalchuk’s status. He believes the winger could seek a two- or three-year deal worth more than $6 million annually.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Athletic’s Craig Custance cites former NHL player and KHL assistant coach Dmitry Yushkevich saying he believes Kovalchuk is returning to the NHL to win a Stanley Cup. If so, that takes the rebuilding Red Wings out of the equation. It could also rule out the Rangers, though it’s believed Kovalchuk wouldn’t mind playing in New York.
Ducks GM Bob Murray reportedly wants his roster to get faster so he might pass on an aging Kovalchuk, especially when he’s got several 30-somethings (Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Ryan Kesler) carrying expensive contracts. I concur with Kurz’s take that the Sharks could be simply exploring their options and are likely to focus on boosting their depth at center. The same could be said for most of the teams on this list. They could simply be doing their due diligence as they await to see how things shake out in the trade market and the days leading up to the start of free agency on July 1.
Some will scoff at the notion of Kovalchuk getting two-three years at over $6 million annually, but he can rightly point to Marleau’s contract as a comparable. He’s also three years younger than the Leafs winger, who tallied 27 goals and 47 points last season. I don’t think anyone’s expecting Kovalchuk to be a 40-50 goal scorer again but interested parties could see him as a winger with 25-30 goal potential. Still, his asking price could narrow down the potential destinations.
LATEST ON THE CANUCKS
FRS HOCKEY: Chris Nichols cites Elliotte Friedman telling Vancouver’s Sportsnet 650 that he expects the Canucks could be among this summer’s most active teams. He thinks they were aggressive in pursuing Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Noah Hanifin, perhaps by offering up their first-round pick (seventh overall) in this year’s upcoming NHL Draft. However, he doesn’t believe they offered up that selection to the Buffalo Sabres for center Ryan O’Reilly.
THE ATHLETIC: Jason Brough spoke with Canucks president of hockey operations Trevor Linden on Friday. Brough said there’s “a very, very strong possibility” the Canucks will retain their first-round pick, adding they’ll have to get an offer that blows their doors off, such as a young player they like plus something else. He believes that should quash those “Hanifin-to-the-Canucks” speculation.
“The speculation has gotten a life of its own,” said Linden, who admitted to rolling his eyes after seeing the seventh overall pick on TSN.ca’s Trade Bait board.” Still, Brough cautions that doesn’t mean it’s a certainty the Canucks won’t trade the pick, acknowledging anything can happen.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: In other words, the Canucks have set a high asking price for their first-round pick. If, for example, the Hurricanes want that pick, it’ll cost them Hanifin plus perhaps a draft pick (other than Carolina’s first-round pick) or a prospect.