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Kovalchuk A Given to Return to Montreal?

Sportsnet scribe Eric Engels all but confirmed the Montreal Canadiens will be bringing back Ilya Kovalchuk. The move makes sense.

When asked if general manager Marc Bergevin did enough to get Ilya Kovalchuk to return to Montreal next season, Sportsnet scribe Eric Engels said the following:

“There’s no question he did.” He added, “Based on my information, it’s all but assured Kovalchuk will be back in Montreal come 2020-21.”

Engels did make sure to put an asterisks beside his statement suggesting anything can happen, adding, “So maybe hold off on the jersey order until he signs”, but he made it sound pretty cut and dry that Kovalchuk would be back.

It makes sense on a number of levels.

First, Kovalchuk was quite open about how much he liked it in Montreal. He’s a traveled veteran who understands the business of hockey, so he never seems too surprised to wind up somewhere else, but in Montreal, he fit like a glove. He immediately started producing, where he’d struggled to do so earlier with the Los Angeles Kings. He was given key minutes, he was looked upon as a leader and there was more than a little speculation the team might keep him around versus trading him at the NHL Trade Deadline.

As time passed and the Washington Capitals weren’t able to take advantage of acquiring Kovalchuk — thanks to a pause on the NHL season — the Caps may not get a great read on how he would have fit with players like Alex Ovechkin or Nicklas Backstrom. As such, they’re aren’t married to the idea of Kovalchuk in a Capitals jersey.

Second, Kovalchuk has the best potential opportunity in Montreal. No doubt, the Canadiens have some money to spend where other teams might not. They also know Kovalchuk’s value, where other teams might not. If you had to write down a great fit on paper, Montreal and Kovalchuk would probably be it. The only thing missing is the fact that’s it difficult to call the Canadiens a contender.

That’s something Bergevin plans to change. Ready to make a big splash this summer (should he get the opportunity) the Canadiens are poised to take advantage of other team’s salary issues. Being in that position could make the Canadiens better in a hurry should the right opportunity pop up.

So, maybe the question isn’t ‘Will Kovalchuk be back?’ Maybe the question is, ‘What else will the Canadiens do with Kovalchuk on the roster?’

Related: Vancouver Canucks News & Rumors: Pettersson, Markstrom, Myers & Tofolli

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