DALLAS – The Bruins are officially interested in 35-year-old free agent winger Ilya Kovalchuk, and have held extensive enough discussions with the Russian star’s camp to discuss what kind of role he’d be expected to play with the Black and Gold. It sounded like the B’s haven’t made any hard offers to Kovalchuk’s camp at this point in the proceedings, but they are very clearly interested in a right winger that could fit in very nicely as a game-breaking scorer with David Krejci on their second line.
Don Sweeney said there aren’t any timelines or face-to-face meetings set up with the winger at this point, but the interest remains high from Boston if Kovalchuk decides to pursue things with the Black and Gold.
“We’ve spoken to their camp. We have not met with them in person, but we’ve spoken and had numerous conversations with his representatives about where they’re at. We feel we’re a team he has strong interest in and we’ll see where it goes between now and however long he takes to make his decision,” said Sweeney of the Kovalchuk pursuit. “We’re in a position to explore it. We talked very specifically about our roster with him and where we see him fitting in, and what he brings to the table. We’ll be excited to continue to explore, but I don’t know necessarily where it goes.
“The scoring potential, the size and strength [are all positives]. It is five years removed from the NHL [for Kovalchuk] and a lot has changed in those five years if you think about what’s transpired in the league. But I think he’ll be fine. He’s played in big stages and been very successful. He’s a unique talent and fits into a slot that we could hopefully utilize if it comes to fruition.”
It certainly sounds like Kovalchuk is still weighing the pros and cons of free agent NHL suitors like the Bruins, San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings and Vegas Golden Knights among others, and determining which teams could put him in the best position to succeed and compete for a Cup. The 6-foot-3, 230-pounder certainly may not be the guy that last scored 37 goals and 83 points for the New Jersey Devils in his final full NHL season, but Kovalchuk still topped 30 goals and 60 points in 53 KHL games last season in addition to winning a gold medal for Team Russia.
It’s expected that Kovalchuk wouldn’t be looking for a long-term deal at this point in his career, and something in the two-year, $12 million range would be a fair offer for a player looking to reestablish himself after bolting from the NHL five years ago. The Bruins are also keeping the door open for 33-year-old Rick Nash after giving up a boatload of assets to the Rangers for him at the trade deadline, but it’s pretty clear at this point that Nash is the B’s backup plan.
With that in mind, it sure feels like Nash is headed for free agency on July 1 after underwhelming in his two-month stint (six goals and a minus-11 in 23 regular season and playoff games) with the Bruins following the trade deadline.
“We continue to talk to Rick, and he’s going to continue to take some time to make the decision that he wants to make,” said Sweeney. “Time is on his side. He gets to make that [decision] into looking at that. Obviously, we close the door [on Nash talks] if we were fortunate enough to sign Ilya, but you’re kind of jockeying simultaneously. He will have options [in free agency] as well.”
If the Bruins miss out on Kovalchuk and Nash while looking to fill that second line goal-scoring winger, it remains to be seen what exactly they’re going to do to find some of that scoring depth they sorely needed in the postseason.