The Washington Capitals acquired Russian legend Ilya Kovalchuk from the Montreal Canadiens at last year’s trade deadline. After rejuvenating his career with the Habs, Kovy initially continued his production in Washington, posting four points (1g, 3a) in seven regular-season games.
The Capitals hoped Kovalchuk, who has never won a Stanley Cup, would improve their bottom six and put them over-the-top in the playoffs. Instead, Kovy had only one point in the bubble — an assist in the round-robin — and was nearly invisible in the first round against the New York Islanders, posting just one shot during the five-game series.
Ilya Kovalchuk showed during his stint in Montreal last season that there's still gas in the tank.
“That was a great time for sure. Montreal is a special place,'' Kovalchuk told me Monday.
Now he hopes to find the right NHL fit elsewhere. My piece:https://t.co/O398E1TIRO
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) October 27, 2020
“Everyone was in the same situation, so no excuses,” Kovalchuk said to The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun. “The best team won the Cup, Tampa deserved it. But yeah, we didn’t adjust, we didn’t do the right things. I think we can only blame ourselves.”
Kovalchuk has not landed a free-agent contract since — the first day of free agency was October 9 — and is unsure where he will ultimately play next year. Originally a lock to return to the Habs, Kovy is now waiting for the market to work itself out as the coronavirus pandemic wreaks havoc on the 2020-21 season and teams grapple with a flat salary cap.
“I’m training to keep myself in shape,” Kovalchuk said. “I talk to [my agent Pat Brisson] all the time, he keeps me posted. But I’m not in a rush. We will try to find the right place, the right fit, that’s good for everybody.”
Kovalchuk added that he won’t consider signing in the KHL until the NHL season is figured out, saying that didn’t want to sign with a Russian club and then bail at midseason like many other loaned NHL prospects will do. “I don’t think it’s the right thing to do,” he said.
While he waits for what’s next, Kovalchuk is spending time with his family in Miami.
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LeBrun reports that there’s a general sense among other GMs that Kovalchuk will return to the NHL next season if he’s willing to play at the league minimum. If not, Kovy might finish his career overseas – his last games in the NHL will have been with one of his best friends in hockey, Alex Ovechkin, and the Capitals.
Headline photo: Cara Bahniuk/RMNB
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