Ilya Kovalchuk

NHL Trade Deadline: Ilya Kovalchuk picks Capitals over Bruins, per agent

NHL Trade Deadline: Ilya Kovalchuk picks Capitals over Bruins, per agent

The Bruins are undoubtedly looking to add goal-scoring punch at Monday’s NHL trade deadline, and it turns out they fell a little short with one of their pursuits over the weekend.  

Per agent JP Barry by way of Sport-Express reporter Igor Eronko, Ilya Kovalchuk chose the Washington Capitals over the Boston Bruins on Sunday when it came down to both teams being willing to part with a third-round pick in exchange for the Russian sniper.

It’s the second time this season that the Bruins failed to land the Russian star as they weren’t really interested in Kovalchuk when he was cut loose by the Los Angeles Kings earlier this season.

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It would have been a major source of criticism for Bruins general manager Don Sweeney if he’d given up a third-round pick for Kovalchuk this week after he’d passed up a chance to sign him essentially for a bag of pucks a couple of months ago. So perhaps it’s just as well that it didn’t work out for the Black and Gold this time around.

The 36-year-old Kovalchuk had to essentially sign a minor league deal for the league minimum at $700,000 to get a chance with a struggling Montreal Canadiens team, and that’s where things clicked with six goals and 13 points in 22 games for the Habs while playing close to 19 minutes per game for Les Habitants.

Once the Habs fell out of playoff contention in the last couple of weeks, it became a no-brainer that the Canadiens would pick up an asset at the deadline after basically signing Kovalchuk for nothing back in December.

The failed attempt by the Bruins to land Kovalchuk lets everybody know that Boston isn’t done wheeling and dealing on Monday, and it becomes the third time there hasn’t been a connection between the Bruins and the player.

The Bruins, of course, hotly pursued Kovalchuk a couple of summers ago when he returned to the NHL from Russia and eventually signed a three-year deal with the Kings, and then didn’t show interest when he was cut loose by L.A. back in December. It’s clear, though, that the B’s have an eye toward picking up a top-6 winger who can provide offense even after dealing for Anaheim’s Ondrej Kase.

In Kovalchuk’s case, it’s just as clear the Russian sniper picked Washington over Boston based on a chance to take a playoff run with Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals before potentially re-signing with Montreal this summer as a free agent.   

The challenge for the Bruins is that they’ve already spent their first-round pick in the Kase trade with Anaheim, so Boston is most likely looking at a secondary tier of available forwards unless trade demands come way down from what they’ve been over the last few days.

Potential Bruins trade target Ilya Kovalchuk heading to the Capitals

File Photo

Potential Bruins trade target Ilya Kovalchuk heading to the Capitals

The Boston Bruins passed on Ilya Kovalchuk once before. And now, ahead of the 2020 NHL trade deadline, it looks like they have passed on him again.

While there were rumors in early February that the Montreal Canadiens winger was drawing interest from the Bruins, they weren't the team that ultimately ended up trading for him.

Instead, the Washington Capitals acquired Kovalchuk to help their offense for the cost of a third-round pick, according to the Canadiens official Twitter account.

It's also worth noting that the Canadiens ate 50 percent of Kovalchuk's minuscule salary to help the cap-strapped Capitals, according to TSN's Pierre LeBrun.

So, the Kovalchuk trade will take another potential Bruins trade target off the board a day ahead of the NHL's trade deadline.

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Kovalchuk started the season with the Los Angeles Kings but fell out of favor amid struggles for both himself and the team. The Bruins were rumored to be among the initial suitors following his buyout, but they elected not to pursue him, instead sticking with Brett Ritchie and David Backes at the time. Ritchie has since been waived while Backes was waived and subsequently traded.

Kovalchuk has nine goals and 13 assists in 39 games played this season and has looked rejuvenated with the Canadiens. It's possible that he could've provided the team with a scoring jolt they need on the second line and at the very least, he would've provided cheap, veteran depth on either wing.

But it's also possible the team could be holding out in hopes of landing a bigger fish, like Chris Kreider of the New York Rangers, as they look to make another run to the Stanley Cup Final. And they did just land Ondrej Kase in a trade involving Backes, so perhaps they're hoping he can make an impact on their middle-two lines.

We'll soon see exactly what the Bruins have planned for Monday. But if Don Sweeney wants to make one last move to strengthen the Bruins core, he'll have to move fast to get it done as trade options continue to fly off the board.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of the NHL trade deadline. This Monday at 2:30 p.m., stream the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline Show on the MyTeams app and on

HaggBag mailbag: Closing in on the trade deadline, who's coming and going?

HaggBag mailbag: Closing in on the trade deadline, who's coming and going?

The Bruins are in the midst of a boom-or-bust portion of the schedule and have a ton of back-to-back games this month while fending off a Tampa Bay team closing in on them atop the Atlantic Division. With the trade deadline less than 10 days away, it’s also a prime time to talk about trades. So, there is plenty of that in this week’s edition of the Hagg Bag mailbag. As always these are real questions from real fans using the #HaggBag hashtag on Twitter, real messages to my NBCS Facebook fan page and real emails to my email account. Now, on to the bag:

Hi Joe,

It has been a while so I thought I would send a poo-poo platter of thoughts I would love to get your input on.

·Jesse Puljujarvi – any B’s interest before trade deadline?  I realize he can’t play for the B’s this year, but could play for the P-Bruins plus the Oilers get usable player(s) who could help now (and perhaps enable the Bruins to get him at a lower price) – could Zboril + Senyshyn or Fredrick get it done?  Is it a sound move? 

·Zdeno Chara – should we assume he will be with the B’s next season? Given his level of play, role on the team and likely team-friendly cost is this a foregone conclusion?

·Jaroslav Halak – what’s up?  Is there another goalie the B’s are looking at to step into this crucial role next season?  Is Halak looking to be a starter elsewhere and he’s going to go to July 1?

·Jeremy Lauzon – Keeper or trade bait?  I hope we keep him, he makes a difference.

Thanks for your thoughts on my own random Bruins thoughts.

Phil from Shrewsbury

JH: Hi Phil. Any kind of poo-poo platter is always welcome in the HaggBag, so here you go:

1)  I don’t think so as far as Puljujarvi goes. My sense is that the Oilers are still holding out for a high return for a player that’s basically done with the organization and the Bruins won’t (and shouldn’t for that matter) pay it for a guy playing in Europe while having done little to live up to the hype in his time in North America.

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I’d be fine giving up Jakub Zboril and Zach Senyshyn along with a nominal draft pick for a player like that, but I don’t think Edmonton would do it. And I’m not trading Trent Frederic unless I get something significant that’s going to help this season and potentially beyond that. The Bruins window may close after this season, so dealing for future assets isn’t that high on the priority list if I’m the GM.

2)  Yes, I think it’s a foregone conclusion that Zdeno Chara is back. I think he’ll wait until the Bruins have the rest of their affairs in order on the back end including making a final determination on Torey Krug’s future, and then he will sign a team-friendly, one-year contract that will allow the B’s the kind of salary cap flexibility they need to build a quality team around him. There’s also more of a limit each year as to his ability to play at a dominant level once the team gets to the playoffs, so they shouldn’t be paying big money for him.

3)  Halak is 34, hasn’t played more than 40 games in a season in four of his last five seasons and couldn’t make a start last weekend in Detroit because an old-man issue (neck, back) flared up on because of the early start time. He is not going to be a starter anywhere in the NHL at this point in his career. He’s in a perfect spot with the Bruins and it makes sense that both sides would want to continue moving forward. A one-year deal to coincide with Rask’s final year of his contract next season would make sense, and at that point, the Bruins are going to need to make some decisions on what they should do with their goaltending. A lot will depend on the development of Dan Vladar, Kyle Keyser and Jeremy Swayman in the next few years.

4) I think Lauzon is a keeper. I’d also imagine the Bruins do as well based on the two-year contract they signed him to and that his $850,000 cap hit as a bottom-pairing defenseman gives the Bruins a great deal of cap flexibility over the next few seasons.

#Haggbag Joe,

Do you think if Cassidy had more of an outburst in regard to the blatant hit to Tuukka Rask’s head it would have made a difference? Think Torts.

--Mind Within (@Northeren)

JH: Made a difference to who? The refs or his own team? I think Cassidy, his players and the coaching staff didn’t see exactly what happened because it was behind the play and that really dampened their reaction. Should an NHL coach just take a nutty any time he sees his goaltender lying down on the ice with an injury while not having seen what happened?

Maybe. I would like Rask’s teammates to act first, ask questions later when it comes to a teammate being down whether or not you know it was a questionable play. So, I think they should have acted much more aggressively and come down on the Columbus roster after the sneaky dirty play on Rask. But I also think the refs and officials will start paying a lot less attention to Cassidy at the bench if he flips out without cause and ends up being wrong with his timing of the theatrics.

What about obtaining Kovalchuk to play with Charlie Coyle? He can still shoot and Charlie can get him the puck.

Robert McNeil

JH: I advocated for signing Ilya Kovalchuk when he was available back in December because he was willing to play for the veteran minimum and because it was a total no-risk move once he cut ties with the Los Angeles Kings organization. The upside was potentially massive considering the low cost involved, and he’s proven in Montreal that his elite offensive skills are still there if he’s used in the right way, and with the right players.

I mean, a $700,000 two-way contract is as low-risk as it gets to sign any player and tells you Kovalchuk was just desperate to stay in the league as he's shown at 36 with the six goals and 12 points in 18 games while playing about 20 minutes a night.

All that being said, I am going to crush the Don Sweeney and the Bruins organization if they give up a prime asset (say, a second-round pick) to rent Kovalchuk should the Habs decide to flip him to the highest bidder at the trade deadline. 

There’s no way you can give up prime draft picks and prospects for a player that you could have had for absolutely nothing just a month or two prior to that. You have to know if you’re an NHL talent evaluator that you can’t properly scout a player on a lousy team like the Kings with a bunch of plumbers out on the ice.

Get a different player at the trade deadline because the optics of trading for a player you could have had for nothing just makes you look like you don’t know what you’re doing. Besides, I don’t think the Canadiens are looking to help out the Bruins anyway.

If the price is too high to get Kreider - who are the 2,3,4 options? Hear any rumors that might surprise us?

--meathome472 (@meathome472)

JH: Yes, the price will probably be too high for Kreider. The Rangers will be looking for a first-round pick and I’d expect they’ll also be looking for a top young asset like Anders Bjork, Jack Studnicka or Urho Vaakanainen in exchange for him. I’d be hesitant to give that up if I were the Bruins unless I had some assurances that he would be sticking around Boston beyond this season.

After that, it’s:

1) Josh Anderson
2) Tyler Toffoli
3) Ondrej Kase
4) Craig Smith

I think Toffoli would be a decent fit and after that, it turns into players that aren’t that much of an upgrade over what they currently have on the roster. Still, Marcus Johansson and Drew Stafford weren’t marquee names when they arrived at trade deadlines in the past and they still ended up being pretty good performers for the Bruins once they got here. That should embolden the B's that they don’t necessarily have to chase after the biggest, shiniest object available ahead of the Feb. 24 deadline.

Hey Joe! Question for the Hagg Bag:  

Let’s face it, the Bruins are no longer playing the style of “traditional Bruins Hockey” that won them the Stanley Cup in 2011. When the playoffs roll around, hard-hitting teams like the Capitals and the Blues are going to push this team all over the rink, and knock players into concussion protocol. The lack of a strong, physical presence on this team (other than Zdeno Chara) is forcing likes of Brad Marchand and Tory Krug to bang up their knuckles trying to push back on teams that take their liberties with the Bruins. Coach Cassidy makes the decisions on roster and ice time and he is responsible for current composition of the team. Is it time for Cassidy to go? 

Ricky RaCool

JH: Umm no, I don’t think it is. He’s coaching the personnel that he’s given and clearly this is the direction that Don Sweeney wants the team to go in as well. Kevan Miller is likely done with a knee issue that hasn’t gone away over nearly a calendar year and David Backes couldn’t play that role anymore either due to the concussion issues. Brett Ritchie was brought in to play that kind of role and he wouldn’t do it consistently when called upon for it either.

The only hope personnel-wise is that Trent Frederic can be that kind of guy given the kind of tough-guy season he’s had in the AHL and that the Bruins eventually give him a chance to show it in the NHL. 

Do I believe that Cassidy is actively telling his players to turn the other cheek and not protect their teammates? No, I don’t. I think it’s a byproduct of the players that are on the current roster and I think that Bruins management is aware that they have a toughness problem even if they aren’t publicly admitting it. That’s why there’s a lot of interest in a Chris Kreider/Josh Anderson-type at the deadline because they would bring a little more size and strength, and that’s why they are linked to defenseman Brenden Dillon as well.

What is your outlook on the D in the coming years? #HaggBag Ideally if they sign Krug, I’d like something along the lines of this. McAvoy-Carlo Krug-Grzelcyk Clifton/Urho/Lauzon Chara may have a year in him, but for cap and surplus reasons, I’d imagine Miller & Moore go

--David Pastrnak Fan Club (@cityofrings)

JH: I think we’re seeing what the pairings will be moving forward with the recent signings. I think Chara will be staying for at least another year and that the Bruins will be re-signing Krug before it’s all said and done. If it’s a Lauzon/Clifton bottom pairing, then the Bruins would have a $1.85 million cap hit combined for their bottom-pairing D-men for the next couple of seasons and that would give them all kinds of cap flexibility to sign Krug and bring in more talent, too.

So I could see Miller and John Moore both exiting, and maybe even a Matt Grzelcyk trade being possible as well:




Any chance B’s pick up Bogosian?

--24 (@tylerwhidden)

JH: No. Zach Bogosian has been put on waivers by the Buffalo Sabres, where he's really struggled. He’s just 29, so it’s tough to say he’s done, but he’s also definitely not lived up to being the third overall pick in the draft by Winnipeg.

Hey Haggs,

I have reffed at many levels and I respect the officials. However, after the Feb 8 game against the Coyotes I am disgusted with double standards. Lauzon has his hit on Stepan reviewed and the initial point of contact is his shoulder he goes down refs review he gets 5 and a game Stepan misses 1 shift. Lawson Crouse extends his elbow into Charlie McAvoy’s head and gets 2 [minutes]. This needs to be addressed [because] the one with the intent gets essentially nothing. Bruins media needs to start drawing attention to this like they do on Leafsnet here in Ontario anytime something does happen against “the Laffs” there is 500 articles.

London Ontario

I wrote about it several times, so I hope you’re not lumping me in with everybody else DJ! I immediately saw the double-standard being served when one dangerous hit was punished and another was barely noticed with a two-minute minor. Thank goodness that neither player was injured as a result of the play and it’s in the rear-view mirror now, but the absolute random nature of punishment from on-ice officials and NHL Player Safety is an issue that needs to be addressed. It was clear to me that Lawson Crouse threw a retaliatory head hit on Charlie McAvoy because of the Lauzon hit, and that kind of activity should be looked at long and hard by the NHL sheriff’s office.


Please tell me where did the moniker "Nose Face Killah" come from?

I love it, but I do not have a clue as to its origin.


Greg PDX

JH: Haha. Have you ever heard of the Wu-Tang Clan rapper “Ghost Face Killah”? When Brad Marchand was a rookie and the Bruins were winning the Stanley Cup, it was a nickname that stuck with him as he was a young hopeful fourth-liner who eventually became the star that he is today. Not as many people call him that now as they did back in his younger days, but it’s stuck around like “Little Ball of Hate” and many other monikers that have come his way. They even still sell the T-shirt out there

That’s all for this week’s Hagg Bag. See you next week.