It is not IF Ilya Kovalchuk is returning to the NHL, the question is, WHERE will he be playing when he does return to the NHL.
Last week, Elliotte Friedman mentioned that the Kovalchuk has made it clear that his preference is to return to play in the best league in the world. Sure the taxes are higher in North America, but the uncertainty with financing within the KHL has many of the stars reaching out in an attempt to Radulov themselves a new contract back on this side of the ocean.
Report: Rangers, Leafs among several clubs to express Kovalchuk interest https://t.co/nuZTCPrmHN
— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) June 4, 2017
Kovalchuk was selected first overall back in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft by the then Atlanta Thrashers. Standing in at 6’3 and weighing close to 230 pounds, the Russian Sniper is more than a handful to attempt to contain. Before leaving for the KHL, the now 34 year old, had scored 52 goals on more than one occasion and was a prototypical power forward, who did not mind getting his nose dirty, in the corners or in front of the net.
While Kovalchuk is not a spring chicken, let us not forget the fact that he just came off of a 32 goal, 78 point season in the KHL with SKA, Saint Petersburg. With the more relaxed style of play in the NHL, and the abundance of power play opportunities, can he score 30 plus as a member of the Maple Leafs?
Yes, there will be many teams involved in the discussions for Kovalchuk, and nobody knows what the Devils will want for this highly desire asset. And as TSN’s Bob McKenzie stated, the only way that Kovalchuk can play for another NHL team is for him to be signed by the Devils and then traded to an opposing team.
But if the Leafs could somehow convince Kovalchuk to sign a 3 year deal in Toronto at a reasonable salary would Lou want him wearing Blue and White? Fellow Countryman, Alexander Radulov got 5.75 million on a one year deal to prove himself with Montreal last season. Worked out well for both parties, is Ilya Kovalchuk going to want term and a similar salary?
If so, where would you slot this sniper?
If it were up to me, it makes perfect sense for Kovalchuk to be slotted on the opposite side to Mitchell Marner. I cannot imagine the damage the two of them could do, not only on the powerplay but with their speed together at 5 on 5.
Lou, the next move is up to you.