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.
KHL's leading scorer and 2018 Olympic MVP Ilya Kovalchuk will join the LA Kings for the 2018-19 season after agreeing to terms on a 3-year contract.https://t.co/xp15gyuKBu— LA Kings (@LAKings) June 23, 2018
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.
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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.