Surprising. Exciting. Intriguing. Ironic. Fairytale-Like… these are all adjectives one could use to describe Ilya Kovalchuk’s short tenure in Montreal since he was dumped by the Los Angeles Kings and picked up by the only team that was willing to give him a shot in the NHL.
Whatever word you use to describe what’s happening in Montreal, one thing almost everyone can admit is that this story is front-and-center in the NHL news reels.
Kovalchuk now has eight points in eight games and has the hockey world talking. When he started scoring, most made comments about how neat it was to see him do well. Now that he’s continued to score, many are wondering what comes next?
The Canadiens have a few choices:
Re-Sign Kovalchuk Right Away
Based on how re-invigorated he looks, something suggests Kovalchuk feels at home in Montreal. He talks to reporters like he’s been part of the team since the start of the season and he notes how much he’s enjoyed being part of a market that cares so much. His production is off the charts good and he’s explained it’s because he’s actually playing more than seven minutes per night.
Sometimes, a team needs to see what they have and try to make the most out of it. Kovalchuk in Montreal appears to be a fit. If the team needs scoring and Kovalchuk can offer it, why not see if he’s interested in repeating this success next season?
Trade Ilya Kovalchuk
Most NHL insiders believed that when Montreal acquired Kovalchuk, the partnership was likely temporary. Either he’d finish out the season or if, by some miracle he played well enough, the Canadiens could get an asset by trading him at the NHL Trade Deadline. At this point, Montreal might get a pretty good return.
Clearly, Kovalchuk has something left in the tank and he could help a number of contenders. If he’s given regular minutes, he’s an effective power play guy and could work well with skilled line mates. To boot, he’s making very little money and that makes him an attractive option for teams will little cap room.
If the Canadiens offered him up for trade, at least four or five teams would now give it a serious look.
Just Wait and See What Kovalchuk Wants
When asked about the prospect of Ilya Kovalchuk re-signing in Montreal, agent Pat Brisson told TVA Sports that it is too early to talk about contract extensions. Another agent suggested that this meant Kovalchuk was eager to try and prove something, then test his value on the open market. Kovalchuk’s agent is suggesting it’s because the sniper is focused on making the playoffs.
Whatever the situation, waiting likely makes the most sense financially for Kovalchuk. He’s not bound to get another long-term offer from anyone so the key is to maximize what he can get on a one-year deal from a team. That means upping his numbers as high as he can over the next 30 games and trying to get into the postseason where he can contribute and up his value even more.
The downside for the Canadiens is that this leans towards him leaving. The upside is they’ll have first crack at trying to convince him not to.
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