Friday, April 23, 2010

Where in the world is Ilya Kovalchuk? (Poll)

(Photo from Yahoo)

Ilya Kovalchuk, one of the top-6 Russian forwards in the NHL, has played almost his entire NHL career with the Atlanta Thrashers. He has, year in and year out, produced on the offense and has always scored plenty of goals. This season, Atlanta traded him to the New Jersey Devils due to their inability of signing him to a long term contract. However, Kovalchuk has clearly been a square peg in a round hole with the Devils and their defense-first system. Now that the Devils have been eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the question is, where will Kovalchuk sign this off season? He is probably one of the most valuable UFAs (Unrestricted Free Agents) to be on the market for quite a while, and it will be interesting to see where he goes. I'll give my analysis of the situation, and you can also vote in the latest poll, where you choose your the 3 teams you think Ilya Kovalchuk will end up with for next season...

I'll give 5 teams I think would need and possibly afford Ilya Kovalchuk for next season. I'll give reasons why I like him there, and possible trades that would need to happen to ease salary-cap space...

1. Pittsburgh Penguins
Let me explain...

  • The Pittsburgh Penguins are plagued by their lack of a top winger. Period. Sidney Crosby is great and all, but he really has nobody to pass to. 
  • Observe the productive pairing of Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Ovechkin we have here in Washington. Sure, it's nice to have Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on the same team, but they, both being centers, often play on separate lines. We Capitals can have the 1-2 punch of Ovechkin and Backstrom at the same time, which is great.
  • Now, Evgeni Malkin gets about 8.7 million a year, or at least has that as his salary cap hit. I can't really see Ilya Kovalchuk getting more than that.
  • However, Pittsburgh can't afford three players with 8.7 million contracts, so I feel that they should trade Evgeni Malkin.
  • There are few top centers in the league, and Pittsburgh would get some nice prospects and picks from trading Malkin.
  • They then would use the cap space to sign Kovalchuk, and Crosby would finally have a worthy winger.
2. New York Islanders
Let me explain...
  • The Isles have cap space. Lots of cap space. 18 million dollars of cap space.
  • They need offense, they need goaltending, they need everything.
  • So... sign the best free agent forward available right now.... Ilya Kovalchuk!
  • That's about it.
3. St. Louis Blues
Let me explain...
  • The Blues are a growing team, and the offense provided by a player like Kovalchuk would be welcome.
  • Considering the Blues are always on the edge of playoff contention, an addition like Kovalchuk would maybe help them end inside the bubble more often.
4. Boston Bruins
Let me explain...
  • For this to happen, the Bruins need to trade Tim Thomas. His 5 million cap hit is in the way, and he is expendable with the emergence of Tuukka Rask.
  • Boston has good defense and good goaltending, but with the trading of Phil Kessel, they are suffering on offense.
  • Hence, sign Ilya Kovanchuk!
5. Phoenix Coyotes
Let me explain...
  • The Coyotes lack offense.
  • They lack interest in the team.
  • They have defense.
  • They have goaltending.
  • The addition of a purely offensive powerhouse like Kovalchuk would increase scoring as well as draw interest and fans to the games.
  • Win-win.
Vote! Vote! Vote!

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