Ilya Kovalchuk has a new home for the rest of the season and it will be with the Montreal Canadiens.
The team announced on Friday that they have signed the 36-year-old Russian forward to a one-year, two-way deal worth $700,000. The Canadiens also noted that the deal is worth $70,000 in the AHL, but if this partnership goes that bad we’ll probably see another mutual termination like what happened in LA.
“We’re trying to improve the team in the short-term without hurting the organization in the long-term,” Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin said on Friday. “You have high-risk, medium-risk and no-risk moves. Bringing Kovy to Montreal, there’s no risk.”
Kovalchuk’s time with the Kings ended last month after a lackluster 81 games over the last two season. He signed a three-year, $18.75M deal in 2018 after spending five years in the KHL and mustered over 19 goals and 43 points in LA. The marriage came to an end after being put on unconditional waivers as the team was terminating his deal.
Since he signed the contract as a 35-plus player, Kovalchuk’s $6.25M cap hit stays on the Kings’ books through the end of the 2020-21 NHL season, per Cap Friendly.
The Canadiens, currently missing Jonathan Drouin, Brendan Gallagher, Joel Armia, and Paul Byron, sit seven points out of the last Eastern Conference wild card spot and are desperate to make a second-half push. This move by Bergevin allows him to try something without giving up assets in return. If Kovalchuk doesn’t work, then that could open the door for a trade or two. A third straight spring without playoff hockey would up the temperature on the GMs seat and likely mean big offseason changes for the franchise.
“I’m trying to help them in the short-term to stay in the playoff race until our injured players come back,” said Bergevin. “Those guys probably won’t return before the All-Star break. That’s the main reason why we signed him this morning.”
Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.