Bruins

Kovalchuk goes to Kings with 3-year deal

ilya-kovalchuk-62218.jpg
USA TODAY Sports photo

Kovalchuk goes to Kings with 3-year deal

DALLAS – The Bruins missed out in their hunt for big-ticket, free-agent winger Ilya Kovalchuk after he’s signed a three-year, $18-plus million deal with the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings appeared to be the front-runner for the 35-year-old Russian sniper’s services as talks escalated with LA, Boston, Vegas and San Jose the past few weeks, and, in the end, they were the team willing to meet the Russian’s asking price.

Kovalchuk’s agent, JP Barry, had zeroed in on Patrick Marleau as a comparable asking price after he signed a three-year, $18.75 million deal with the Maple Leafs prior to this season. That’s exactly what Kovalchuk got from the Kings. It's a contract rich term and dollars for an admittedly talented player, who hasn’t laced up the skates in the NHL the past five years.

So, it’s understandable that the Bruins opted not to overextend for a gifted, aging player who enters the NHL with a lot of question marks to be answered. There are a lot of factors that make Kovalchuk less than comparable to Marleau. It’s been five seasons since Kovalchuk played in the NHL and the Russian winger bolted out on his last contract with the New Jersey Devils prior to jumping to the KHL. 

The more comparable low-end-of-the-range player to Kovalchuk in terms of circumstance is Alexander Radulov, who signed a one-year, $5.25 million contract with the Montreal Canadiens after returning from Russia following his time with the Nashville Predators. He signed his big deal with the Dallas Stars after posting 18 goals and 54 points with the Habs in the 2016-17 season.

Clearly, Kovalchuk deserves a little more than Radulov based on his past accomplishments in the NHL, so splitting the high/low difference would have left an offer in the two-year, $13-14 million range that would have been fair to both sides. Instead, the Kings gave Kovalchuk exactly what they wanted and it’s up to the Bruins to start over, whether that means stepping up talks with Rick Nash, making a pitch for a UFA forward James van Riemsdyk or getting involved with discussions when/if Jeff Skinner, Elias Lindholm or Wayne Simmonds become available in trade talks.

Either way, it’s the Bruins going to different options than what they were hoping for as they clearly thought the game-breaking Kovalchuk could be a very good fit heading into next season.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Injury-plagued Bruins have a big challenge, but they also have a plan

usatsi_11559918.jpg
File Photo

Injury-plagued Bruins have a big challenge, but they also have a plan

The Bruins really are at a bit of a breaking point right now with the injuries.

It’s bad enough that they’re missing Kevan Miller, Brandon Carlo, Charlie McAvoy, John Moore and Urho Vaakanainen to injuries at this point, but now Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron both appear to be out for the foreseeable future. That’s about as dire as it gets for the Black and Gold missing their two best defensive players and leaders on the ice while seemingly introducing a new player from Providence just about every game.

Couple that with the fact that it appears Montreal and Buffalo are much improved in the Atlantic Division this season, and the Bruins have a challenge to at least tread water with the rest of the pack while currently sitting in playoff position. That won’t be easy missing so many key players and trying to survive with Torey Krug and Matt Grzelcyk basically serving as the top two defensemen among the six blueliners on the ice.

MORE BRUINS COVERAGE

 

Despite all of that, give credit to Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy and his coaching staff for formulating the best plan until some of the healthy reinforcements arrive for the Black and Gold. It’s been on display in each of the last two games as the Bruins have taken three out of four points on the road against Dallas and Arizona in low-scoring affairs. The Bruins have only scored two goals in the two games, but still managed to secure the three points because they found a little offense stuffed in between the couch cushions, and then played a conservative brand of hockey that limits chances both for them and for the opposition.

That was on full display against the Coyotes when the Bruins only managed three shots on net in the second period after scoring early in the game to take a quick 2-0 lead in the eventual 2-1 win over the Desert Dogs. It may not be the sexiest hockey in the world for a Bruins team that’s used to scoring early and often while playing at a fast pace, but it should also be effective if the young B’s reserves can keep their discipline and confidence riding high.

They’re also going to need some seriously strong goaltending from both Jaroslav Halak and Tuukka Rask, who combined to stop 68-of-70 shots (.971) over the weekend in taking the three out of four available points against the Stars and Coyotes. Halak continues to put together a strong season with the .935 save percentage and the 2.07 goals against average to date this year, and Rask has always been a strong goalie in the months of November and December once things get to the middle of the regular season.

MORE BRUINS COVERAGE

 

There’s clearly hope that the goaltenders are both going to be up for the challenge over the next month or so. They'll need to after the Bruins were outshot 70-46 over the last two games while playing their brand of a bend-but-don't-break defense with rookies, AHL journeymen and undersized puck-movers trying to get the job done. 

There’s also the fact that Kevan Miller may be returning this coming week, and there may be another healthy body or two behind him with the Brandon Carlo issue not expected to be a serious injury to begin with.

So put it all together and there’s no question the Bruins are in the middle of some serious adversity, and that the success of the last two games could become a fleeting thing while banking on a boatload of young, inexperienced players called up from Providence. So far, so good for the Black and Gold, but they’re a long way from getting out of the woods despite being in a good playoff spot with the Thanksgiving holiday bearing down on them this week.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

What We Learned in the Bruins 2-1 win over the Coyotes: It's a gritty formula for B's

What We Learned in the Bruins 2-1 win over the Coyotes: It's a gritty formula for B's

Here’s What We Learned in the Bruins grinding 2-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes at the Gila River Casino Arena.

1. Jake DeBrusk is redirecting pucks in front of the net, crashing the painted area for rebounds and generally playing bigger and stronger around the net. Not so coincidentally he’s also begun scoring with regularity for the first time this season and potted the game-winner in the first period on Saturday night when he followed a Brad Marchand shot.

DeBrusk was at the net when Darcy Kuemper kicked out the rebound and was able slam it home for his fifth goal and seventh point in the last seven games. With DeBrusk now heating up, the Bruins are finally getting the secondary source of scoring that they’ve needed to this point in the season. Unfortunately they’re also now missing Patrice Bergeron due to injury and that means it’s not even really secondary scoring anymore. It’s primary scoring, particularly with DeBrusk starting the game on a tinkered line with Marchand being centered by Joakim Nordstrom. If DeBrusk wants to keep scoring he’ll need to keep playing the power game. That’s something that’s come much easier to DeBrusk lately.

2. The real unspoken thing with this Bruins team is how thoroughly and gut-wrenchingly boring they're going to have to play in order to survive this ridiculous stretch with injuries. It’s scrap for goals, pack it in defensively & hang on for dear life just as they did against the Coyotes on Saturday, and like they tried to do Friday night against the Dallas Stars before ultimately falling in overtime. It’s not going to be easy to play that conservative, kind of boring style either.

It will require discipline and a lack of mistakes from the young players being forced into the lineup, it’s going to require playing to step up and score goals while missing so many of their key guys and it’s going to take both of their goalies to bring their ‘A’ games just about every single night. They were able to provide this formula on both Friday night in Dallas and Saturday night in Arizona in back-to-back fashion, but it’s a real question if they’re going to be able to do it over the long haul while waiting for guys like Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron to return to the lineup. They may or may not be able to keep up their current pace, but we now it's going to be done in a much more conservative, controlled way for the near future. 

3. The education of Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson continues as the rookie was able to jump on a play early in the game and provide some offense for the Bruins with his first NHL goal. It was another gritty play with JFK heading toward the front of the net on a Noel Acciari wraparound attempt, and then popping in the puck when it came right toward him in front. It was an okay overall game for JFK with a goal and two shot attempts in 10:38 of ice time along with a 3-for-8 performance in the face-off circle.

He played a few more minutes than he did Friday night in Dallas and was a little more of a noticeable factor with the goal included. Now he just needs to play a little more consistently and be some kind of a factor even when he’s not involved with the offense, and he’ll really be on to something. But so far he’s at least showing that he can hold his own at the NHL level and that’s a start.

PLUS

*Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson scored his first NHL goal, passed over 10 minutes of ice time for the game and generally looked a little better on Saturday than he did during an invisible game against the Dallas Stars. JFK simply needs to find a way to be a consistent positive factor and he’ll be okay.

*Jake DeBrusk scored the game-winning goal during Boston’s first period outburst and now has five goals and seven points in his last seven games while providing a steady stream of offense. DeBrusk is doing it by playing strong around the net and combining power with his already present skill.

*Jaroslav Halak was brilliant again for the Bruins in stopping 31-of-32 shots and keeping the Coyotes off the board even as they fired 13 shots on net in the third period in a desperate attempt to tie the game. It was good to see Halak back in his usual form after a bit of a rough game while giving up 6 goals in Colorado.

MINUS

*The news that Patrice Bergeron (upper body) and John Moore (lower body) are both returning to Boston to be evaluated by the medical staff is really, really bad news considering all the other players already missing from the lineup. No Bergeron and no Chara could mean big trouble if it’s for a 4-6 week span.

*Connor Clifton had five hits and was a plus-1 while topping 20 minutes of ice time in the win in only his second NHL game. Those were the definite positives. But Clifton also took a delay of game penalty for the second game in a row after flipping a puck over the glass. He’s going to need to work on that.

*No shots and 3-for-12 in the face-off circle for David Krejci in his 15 plus minutes of ice time in his first game without No. 37 in the lineup. Krejci really needs to start stepping it up until Bergeron can get healthy.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE