Where Will Ilya Kovalchuk go this Offseason?
Ilya Kovalchuk hasn't played an NHL game since Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals in 2012 with the New Jersey Devils against the Los Angeles Kings. Kovalchuk has been in the KHL for the past several years and he is now ready to make a return to the NHL.
He will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and Kovalchuk will be able to sign with any team despite signing a 15-year $100 million contract with the New Jersey Devils back in 2010. Because he left the NHL for a few years, his contract was aborted and he was placed on the voluntary retirement list. New Jersey was still had has right until he turned 35 years old.
He is now 35 years old and they no longer have his rights. Kovalchuk has scored 417 goals and recorded 399 assists in his NHL career. His plus/minus is -116. With this in mind, where will Kovalchuk be playing hockey in 2018-2019 and beyond?
New Jersey Devils: Yes I bet Ray Shero doesn't want to put up with him leaving again, but they could use another veteran presence with a team on the rise. Kovalchuk could provide scoring depth. It would provide a major boost to Taylor Hall and Nico Hischier. New Jersey has the cap room to sign him.
Pittsburgh Penguins: General Manager Jim Rutherford is open to making changes. Kovalchuk is best friends with Evgeni Malkin and that could be a dangerous duo. Pittsburgh will most likely maneuver some players and trade away expensive players. Kovalchuk would be a good fit for a team that is in win-now mode.
Washington Capitals: Having Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov around would help Kovalchuk, but they may not have the cap room to sign him. He would be another dangerous offensive player in their lineup.
New York Islanders: With Lou Lamoriello in charge of making personnel decisions, he could be reunited with Kovalchuk. Lamoriello has to worry about re-signing John Tavares first before he could worry about Kovalchuk. Once he re-signs Tavares, then Lamoriello can focus on Kovalchuk. He would be a great second line winger for centerman Mathew Barzal, who is an upcoming star in the NHL.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Toronto has very good young players like Auston Matthews, Mitchell Marner, and William Nylander. They signed veteran Patrick Marleau this past offseason, but Toronto could use another one. Kovalchuk would be used on either the second or third line. Signing him would mean they would not bring back James van Riemsdyk, who is a free agent.
San Jose Sharks: San Jose has a good mixture of veterans and youth. They were one of the best depth scoring teams in the NHL last season. Ilya Kovalchuk could make it even deeper and he would be a better version of Patrick Marleau, who left in free agency last summer for Toronto.
Nashville Predators: Even though they won the Presidents' Trophy in the 2017-2018, they fell short of their ultimate goal. General Manager David Polie will find a way to maneuver cap space in order to make room for him. Kovalchuk would be a true veteran presence in the locker room with offensive firepower. Nashville would not need him on the first line. He would be so valuable on the second or third line.
St. Louis Blues: The Blues missed the playoffs in 2017-2018, but a couple of tweaks to the roster could possibly have them back in the playoffs for 2018-2019. St. Louis didn't have much depth last season and Kovalchuk could bring some to St. Louis. Vladimir Tarasenko would be more than happy to have him along. The Blues have some cap space to sign him.