Off the bat if it’s not clear yet I’ll let it out, I’m one of the biggest proponents to getting Kovalchuk at the deadline as a rental for this team. Heck I’d be over the moon if we could trade for him and get something of it, but there are several complications that come up and over the past week in talking to The Opiated Sherpa and my friend @MechanixFetch I think there are somethings that need to be laid down as far as ground work for the Kovalchuk Pipe Dream as far as a long term stay for the Russian goes.
It’s no secret that Kovalchuk wants a gajillion dollars. Okay, he wants something in the area of 10 million a year. The Canucks are already locked up for 6 million per Sedin, and 5 million for Luongo, and that’s before even considering re-signing Kesler or do you let him walk? Even still, barring Kovalchuk signing a 30 year contract that was front loaded just so that his seasonal cap hit was low enough there’s no way we could sign him at the price he wanted. Even if he took less, we’re still talking enough money that it doesn’t look feasible.
One of the biggest issues with bringing in Kovalchuk is where do you slot him. He’s a shoot first winger and the first instinct is to put him with the pass first Sedins. But why mess with Burrows? So do you put him on the second line? Kesler, Raymond and Kovalchuk sure would be a sweet line, but then you have Demitra and Samuelsson to deal with and after being snubbed by the Swedish Olympic team I hardly think Samuelsson will take being relegated to the 3rd line.
The other important thing which might tinker with the locker room is how do you tell your franchise players, the ones you couldn’t afford to pay more, or the ones you pay 10 million dollars in a single year (Luongo), that you’re going to bring in a player that warrants more money? How do you tell the Sedins they’re only worth 6 million and then throw 10 at Kovalchuk?
The Vigneault Project
The bottom line is Kovalchuk isn’t a Vigneault player. He’s not defensive minded, he’s shoot first (something this team needs, but still) and he’s a lone ranger. He doesn’t fit AV’s style of play and mould and while his offense is a thing of beauty he’s your typical Russian (nothing racial or derrogatory meant here) hockey player and he’s in many ways exactly like Ovechkin (minus the physical play). He’s just not exactly the kind of guy that’s going to back check as hard as AV wants him to. With that in mind that’s not to say it wont change. We have to remember that he has played on a team where there haven’t been many other stars and if he was brought to an environment with other players that can actually play we might see a change. His play on the Olympic team this year will be a really good eye opener as to what Kovalchuk looks like when he’s on a team with other stars.
The Gillis Era
Gillis has preached a system of speed, youth, and built a team around players that buy into his system. This ties in to the Vigneault system of play and if Kovalchuk doesn’t fit one mould, he’s not going to fit the other. Gillis goes out after players who serve multiple facets of the game and players that aren’t one dimensional. Kovalchuk is a pure goal scorer and unfortunately on a team run by Mike Gillis that might not fly. There’s no doubt Kovalchuk is a talented player and I would love to see him on this team, but there are so many things that would have to change in order for him to work on this team it just doesn’t look probable.
If you put aside all that we’d have to trade to get Kovalchuk, as a long term stay it just doesn’t look like it would be a good idea. As a rental, if the price was right, I’d say go for Kovalchuk in a heart beat. On the power play, skating with Kesler and Raymond, that could be a thing of beauty. The deadline’s still a ways away so we have time to see how things unfold. I doubt that we’ll see any significant injury, but this season we’ve been hit by injuries no one saw coming and maybe there just might be a way to fit the Russian sniper in.