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Bruins may look to make a splash by signing Kovalchuk

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Bruins may look to make a splash by signing Kovalchuk

Clearly, the Bruins fell short in the offensive depth department during this spring’s postseason run. Now it seems like they’re making significant plans to address that shortcoming. 

According to a report from TSN’s Darren Dreger, the B's are one of the interested suitors for the services of free agent winger Ilya Kovalchuk, who plans to jump back into the NHL next season after spending the last handful of years in his native Russia playing for the KHL. Boston is one of what’s believed to be close to a dozen teams vying for the 35-year-old Russian scorer, who can’t sign with an NHL team until the July 1 opening of free agency. 

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“I’m going to give you a list of teams that I believe are interested in Ilya Kovalchuk,” said Dreger on Tuesday during a radio hit with TSN 690 in Montreal. “And I’m going to qualify that level of interest. Detroit, as I tweeted earlier today, definitely made a push. The St. Louis Blues have interest, Anaheim, Dallas, the New York Islanders. I’d put that group as potential dark horse teams.

“And then beyond that, probably more solid contenders include the likes of San Jose and Los Angeles, and I’d put the Boston Bruins in that group and maybe the New York Rangers as well. So there are a total of nine teams. I did not mention Toronto or Montreal and that’s just simply because either the team hasn’t engaged or the player doesn’t see those teams as the right fit.”

Kovalchuk, who scored 31 goals and 63 points in 53 games for KHL St. Petersburg last year, last played in the NHL in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season when he scored 11 goals and 31 points in 37 games for a New Jersey Devils team that didn’t qualify for the playoffs. In his last full NHL season, 2011-12, he posted 37 goals and 83 points in 77 games in leading New Jersey's surprise run to the Stanley Cup Finals, where the Devils lost to the Kings.

No one's expecting Kovalchuk to play at the level he was at six years ago in New Jersey, but the 6-foot-3, 230-pound left winger would be exactly the kind of big-gun scorer the Bruins are seeking to boost their second line. He’s a plus-sized player who can work around the net, he’s an excellent skater, and his shot and finishing instincts are game-changers both on the power play and during even strength. Kovalchuk might be the best scoring winger available on July 1, so he’s certainly worth pursuing given that he would cost the Bruins just money to bring him in. 

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In a perfect world they'd attempt to trade for a younger player to pair with David Krejci, but a short-term, bigger-money deal with Kovalchuk would be less of a gamble with no player assets sacrificed. It would also be a better free-agent investment than throwing money at 33-year-old Rick Nash, who was something of a disappointment as their big trade-deadline acquisition. A top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak, paired with a second line of Kovalchuk, Krejci and a younger winger like Danton Heinen, Jake DeBrusk or Ryan Donato, would be a formidable top-6 for next season and give the Bruins a much more balanced offensive attack.

It all comes down to cost, however, and the Bruins have nearly $9 million in cap space with Riley Nash, Anton Khudobin, Tim Schaller, Sean Kuraly and Matt Grzelcyk as the most likely players to be re-signed by the Bruins this summer. 

On the last deal he signed with New Jersey, Kovalchuk had a cap hit of $6.67 million per season on a long-term dea. One would expect he’d be looking for something in that neighborhood per season upon his return to North America. It’s doable for the Bruins and it sounds like the kind of big splash they’re looking to make in order to upgrade their offense.

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Talking Points from the Bruins 4-2 win over the Leafs

Talking Points from the Bruins 4-2 win over the Leafs

Here are Joe Haggerty's Talking Points from the Bruins' 4-3 overtime loss to the Maple Leafs Saturday night in Boston.

GOLD STAR: Brett Ritchie was pretty quiet for much of the first few weeks of the season after scoring in the season opener, but the Bruins power forward is getting hot at the right time for the Black and Gold. Ritchie scored the game-winning goal in the third period to break open a tie hockey game and played the kind of solid, strong game that the Bruins had in mind when they signed him as a free agent in the first place. Ritchie’s goal was simply good things happening to somebody that was hanging around the net as Jake DeBrusk’s shot bounced off a Leafs defender, and then landed right on the stick of Ritchie powering to the net. He flicked the shot past Michael Hutchinson for his second goal of the season, and added four shot attempts, four hits and a takeaway in his 13:26 of effective ice time.

BLACK EYE: Mitch Marner has routinely been a guy that kills the Bruins, but he was not very noticeable at all for the Maple Leafs against Boston. Instead he was on the ice for a couple of goals against in his 21:26 of ice time, was shut off the scoreboard and had three shots on net while doing very little else while Alex Kerfoot, Kasperi Kapanen and William Nylander accounted for the goals for the Leafs. Marner did his damage in the overtime win for Toronto last weekend when Boston traveled up to Canada, but he couldn’t summon that kind of speed and energy for the home-and-home rematch in Boston. Both Marner and Auston Matthews were average at best on Tuesday night and that’s why they ended up losing.

TURNING POINT: The game was tied 2-2 and the Bruins were playing a team that was going on the second night of back-to-back games with travel, so one would expect that the third period was going to be a good one for the Black and Gold. And it was. The B’s outshot the Leafs by a 14-8 margin in the final 20 minutes as it was pretty clear that Toronto was lacking in the skating legs department, and they poured on the two goals that ended up being the difference in the game. Certainly the Brett Ritchie goal six minutes into the period gave the Bruins confidence as front-runners on the scoreboard, and then killing the late penalty that turned into Par Lindholm’s goal was the coup de grace in the final period.

HONORABLE MENTION: David Pastrnak continues to dazzle with his offensive skill, his game-breaking ability and the way he has carried the team in the first month of the season. He had a goal taken away in the first period when an offside was successfully challenged by the Leafs, but then he came back with a between-the-legs score that will make highlight reels for the rest of his career. It was Pastrnak’s NHL-leading 10th goal of the season, the 300th point of his NHL career and exactly what the Bruins were looking for to take the momentum headed into the first intermission. Pastrnak added five shots on net, seven shot attempts and he threw a nifty centering pass to Brad Marchand for his own goal in the second period.

BY THE NUMBERS: 500 – the number of career NHL games for Tuukka Rask, who also won his 269th career game in another milestone event against the Maple Leafs team that drafted him.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “Everything catches my eye with him right now. He’s just on it.” –Bruce Cassidy on David Pastrnak, who has 10 goals and 17 points in nine games this season.

Highlights: Par Lindholm's goal seals win for Bruins>>>

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Don Sweeney issues update on Karson Kuhlman: Out at least four weeks

Don Sweeney issues update on Karson Kuhlman: Out at least four weeks

The Boston Bruins will be without another player for an extended period of time. 

Winger Karson Kuhlman sustained a hairline nondisplaced fracture to his right tibia in Boston's 4-3 shootout loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday, Oct. 19 and will be reevaluated in four weeks.

Kuhlman, 24, earned the spot on David Krejci's right wing out of training camp. And although he hasn't recorded a point through eight contests, he's played an integral role in Boston's offense.The Minnesota-Duluth product has played 19 NHL games with Boston, tallying five points (three goals, two assists). 

In this case, it looks like recently-recalled Anders Bjork will remain with Boston for some time -- at least until Krejci and/or Joakim Nordstrom return.

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