DALLAS – The beat goes on in the chase for winger Ilya Kovalchuk as his camp had discussions on Friday afternoon with the four finalists for the Russian free agent, the Bruins, Kings, Golden Knights, and Sharks. Don Sweeney indicated that the ball is now in the 35-year-old winger’s court, and it’s up to him to decide.
“We put our position forth. He’s got plenty of options that he’s mulling over as we discussed, and he said he’d get back to us,” said Don Sweeney. “Really, it’s on their time frame. [We talked about] about where you have to be at, and what they predict the range is. Maybe all bids aren’t in and maybe that range will move. But they certainly gave a range and an indication of where you need to be. The terms can always vary until you get something agreed upon on paper. We’ve been consistent that we’d be in the ballpark.”
The high range could be, as was reported on NBCSportsBoston.com, that Kovalchuk’s camp is looking for a comparable deal to the three-year, $18.75 million contract Patrick Marleau signed with Toronto ahead of this past season. But there are a lot of factors that make Kovalchuk less than comparable to Marleau at this point in time. 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 at the NHL level, so splitting the high/low difference would leave an offer in the two-year, $13 million range that would be fair to both sides. That should be the ballpark that the Bruins are currently in, and the lengths that they go in terms of term and money for a 35-year-old player that has some things prove all over again in a league that’s much faster and skill-oriented than in his previous go-round.
The B’s are in a position where they don’t need to over-extend for a player like Kovalchuk and get themselves into a situation where they pay too much for an aging free agent as they did with Matt Beleskey and David Backes in previous years.
If things don’t work out with Kovalchuk, then expect things will start kicking up with free agent power forwards like Rick Nash and James van Riemsdyk as the Bruins look for that offensive punch on their second line.