Brett Ritchie

Ilya Kovalchuk free agent
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Would Ilya Kovalchuk make sense for Bruins, other NHL contenders?

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It’s over. The Ilya Kovalchuk era has mercifully ended for the Los Angeles Kings, as Kovalchuk cleared waivers on Tuesday. The 36-year-old is now an unrestricted free agent.

So, would and should another NHL team see if they can make it work with Kovalchuk where the Kings failed? Let’s consider questions that are almost as tricky as Kovalchuk’s peak-era shot.

Kovalchuk unlikely to cost many bucks

Sports-Express’ Igor Eronko reports a few crucial points:

For the most part, then, a Kovalchuk signing would be low-risk. It sounds like he’d sign a cheap deal, and wouldn’t cost the team assets they’d lose in a trade. That said, there is some risk, as he’d stand as a 35+ contract.

Kovalchuk might be washed

The good news is that it sounds like Kovalchuk wouldn’t cost much. The bad news is that it might be a “get what you pay for” situation.

Consider this perspective from the Boston Sports Journal’s Conor Ryan, which is especially relevant since Eronko reports that the Boston Bruins are “interested” in Kovalchuk:

Kovalchuk doesn’t really shine by many metrics, including this middling heat map from Hockey Viz:

Kovalchuk left the NHL an elite player, but just about every sign points to him being “meh” at best since returning, with 43 points in 81 games as a member of the Kings.

A team signing Kovalchuk either needs to have low expectations (“Kovalchuk could at least be better than what we have now”) or a belief that they can get more out of the once-elite sniper.

Let’s quickly consider a few potential bidders of varying likelihood.

Boston Bruins

Again, Eronko reports that the Bruins are interested, while LeBrun noted (sub required) that the Bruins and San Jose Sharks were among the top bidders for Kovalchuk when he chose Los Angeles.

So, the Bruins have been eyeing Kovalchuk for a while. One could also argue that he’d be an upgrade over, say, Brett Ritchie on the second line with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk. On the other hand, Kovalchuk’s defensive lapses might not make him enough of a net positive for a Bruins team with high aspirations, and it would probably be tough for Kovalchuk to get much more than secondary power play opportunities considering Boston’s firepower.

New York Islanders

The Isles could use a little more “pop” in their offense, and Lou Lamoriello’s history with Kovalchuk is undeniable. One can only imagine the fury Kovalchuk would cause for Barry Trotz, though.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Columbus needs to scratch and claw for everything post-Artemi Panarin. Maybe Kovalchuk could be a power play specialist for Columbus like Sam Gagner once was?

Of course, Kovalchuk might not exactly view the Blue Jackets as contenders, and John Tortorella … well, just picture Torts and Kovalchuk for a minute. Entertaining for everyone except the Blue Jackets, right?

Dallas Stars

Dallas is somewhere between the Blue Jackets and Islanders when it comes to being competitive despite meager scoring. It makes sense, then, that the Stars would face a similar Kovalchuk conundrum: they need offense, but would Kovalchuk take so much off the table defensively that he wouldn’t be worth a potential bump in skill?

Carolina Hurricanes

Adding some finish could be a big boost for Carolina, and there’s the Don Waddell Thrashers connection. LeBrun reports that the Hurricanes are still waiting on Justin Williams’ decision, however.

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Signing Kovalchuk makes at least some sense to quite a few teams, including some who weren’t mentioned in this post. Even so, Kovalchuk also has plenty of flaws in his game, likely shrinking the list when you factor in teams that are more than merely curious.

Would Kovalchuk make your team better? That’s debatable, but it sure would be fun to see a great player author one more strong run. We’ll find out soon enough if someone decides to roll the dice.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Stars’ Ritchie ejected after ugly hit from behind on Coyotes’ Goligoski

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It’s hard to imagine what Dallas Stars forward Brett Ritchie was thinking here.

Chasing after a puck in deep in the Arizona Coyotes zone with a little over two minutes left in the second period, Ritchie decided to not let up on Coyotes defenseman Alex Goligoski, whose numbers were the only thing former saw as he drove the latter dangerously into the end boards.

The video isn’t kind to Ritchie, and there appears to be little room for debate on how dumb and unsafe this hit was.

Goligoski was at the mercy of Ritchie, and the latter failed to show him any.

Ritchie, unsurprisingly, was given five-minute major for boarding and a game misconduct for the hit.

It would be surprising if that’s all he got, too. This sort of thing is bound to pique the interest of the NHL’s Department of Player Safety.

Let’s review:

  • The hit was dangerous;
  • It was unnecessary;
  • Goligoski was in a vulnerable state;
  • It left a player injured, one who did not return to the game (the Coyotes announced he has an upper-body injury)

The NHL is trying to get a couple of hits out of the game, and this is certainly one of them.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Video: Stars’ Ritchie with high hit on Flames’ Monahan

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The Calgary Flames’ breakout line of Johnny Gaudreau, Jiri Hudler and Sean Monahan keep scoring and scoring this season. You never know when an ill-fated hit could mess that up, though.

Monday produced a scare in the form of this highly questionable hit by rugged Dallas Stars forward Brett Ritchie, which only produced a two-minute minor:

Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski labels the hit as “predatory.” Is that accurate?

On the bright side, it seems like Monahan is OK.

Stars place Seguin and Eaves on IR

The Dallas Stars have placed forwards Tyler Seguin (lower body) and Patrick Eaves on injured reserve the club announced Saturday.

Both suffered injuries in the third period of Friday night’s 2-0 win over the Florida Panthers.

In a corresponding move the club recalled Brett Ritchie and Travis Morin from the American Hockey League’s Texas Stars.

Panthers’ defenseman Dmitry Kulikov was assessed a major penalty for clipping and a game misconduct for his hit on Seguin late in the third period.

According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the league is reviewing the Kulikov hit.

“It’s a dirty shot. It’s just something that ends up taking your best player out of the game,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff postgame. “Not only out of the game, it is taking him out of the lineup for a little while for us.

“(We will) just let the league deal with it. I used to yell and scream about it but that doesn’t do any good. It’s just a shot that didn’t need to happen.”

Moments later Eaves took a puck to the head and left the game.

“(Patrick) Eaves is on his way to the hospital to get x-rays,” said Ruff. “He took a pretty hard shot to the head. He’s had a previous injury there so we’re fairly concerned.”

Eaves suffered a concussion and a broken jaw after being hit by a Roman Josi slap shot in November 2011.

The Stars will also be without Ales Hemsky tonight when they visit the Colorado Avalanche.

Hemsky (lower body) played just three shifts in the first period Friday night.

“Hemsky is going to stay back (in Dallas) too,” said Ruff. “He’s going to miss some time so it’s been a tough night on the injury front.”

Colorado has won all three meetings between the two clubs this season including a 3-2 shootout victory 11 days ago.

Stars recall Curtis McKenzie and Jyrki Jokipakka

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The Dallas stars recalled forward Curtis McKenzie and defenseman Jyrki Jokipakka from the American Hockey League’s Texas Stars the club announced Saturday.

In a corresponding move, forward Brett Ritchie was placed on injured reserve retroactive to Dec. 15.

According to Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News, Jokipakka could be an option on the blue line tonight when the Stars play host to the Washington Capitals.

Trevor Daley is out due to an undisclosed injury so either Jokipakka or David Schlemko will draw in says Heika.

Up front, Ales Hemsky is available to the Stars meaning McKenzie could be a healthy scratch.

McKenzie, 23, has appeared in 14 games with Dallas this season registering a goal and 19 penalty minutes. In 16 AHL games, McKenzie has four goals and 13 points. He was the Stars’ sixth-round selection (159th overall) in 2009.

Jokipakka has three assists in 16 games with Dallas this season. The 23-year-old has also appeared in 15 AHL games where he has three goals and four points with Texas. Jokipakka was Dallas’ seventh round pick (195th overall) at the 2011 NHL Draft.

The Stars and Caps meet tonight for the first of two meetings this season.