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Could Kovalchuk Wind up a Montreal Canadien?

In 2013, Ilya Kovalchuk, the man who’s been called the greatest natural scorer the NHL has ever seen, decided to retire from the show just three seasons into a 15-year deal with the New Jersey Devils and head back to Russia to play out the rest of his professional career in the KHL. Well, don’t call it a comeback, but the 34-year-old Kovie is now considering a return to North America for the 2017-18 regular season.

The Russian sniper, who collected 816 points in 816 career games played in the NHL, has played parts of the last four seasons for SKA Saint Petersburg and is coming off a year where he amassed 78 points in 60 games – good for second in the league in scoring.

Although there’s a ton of hurdles to clear if Kovie wants to play for a team other than New Jersey, Bovada thinks there’s a 4/1 chance that he starts the 2017-18 NHL season on the roster of the Montreal Canadiens.

In order for Kovalchuk to get cleared as a free agent, every NHL team (including New Jersey) would have to approve his unrestricted release from the Devils and I’m not so sure that’s realistic. The Devils got seriously screwed by the Kovie retirement and it’s unlikely they’ll want him scoring goals against them for free. What could happen, however, is that the Devils (who still own his rights) agree to his return, sign him and promptly trade him to another team.

As for the potential of the former Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy winner winding up with the Habs – it makes a lot of sense. Former KHLer Alex Radulov joined the Canadiens last offseason on a one-year deal and it looks like they’ll try hard to re-sign him. Radulov has hinted that he’d like general manager Marc Bergevin to make a run at Kovalchuk and given the Habs’ serious issues at the offensive end, Kovie could be just what le doctor ordered.

Montreal already has a strong Russian contingent with the aforementioned Radulov, Alex Galchenyuk, Andrei Markov and Mikhail Sergachev all on the roster and an all-Ruski forward line of Kovie-Gally-Rad would be incredible to watch.

All that said, the trade to acquire Kovalchuk from the Devils would be a tough one to negotiate and it would probably require the Habs to give up a blue-liner and a future draft pick or two. There would also be a ton of other clubs in the race to scoop up the marksman of 417 NHL goals so by no means will this be an easy feat for Habs’ brass to accomplish, and remember – all this is under the assumption that the Russian winger even decides to come back at all.

WIll the Canadiens Acquire Ilya Kovalchuk before Game 1 of the 2017-18 NHL Season?

Odds as of April 28 at Bovada

  • Yes +400
  • No -700

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