Scouting the Market: Ilya Kovalchuk

June 30, 2010, by

Up next in Scouting The Market: everyone’s favorite Russian, Ilya Kovalchuk. Read the other Scouting The Markets here. Since the draft ended, and tomorrow all hell breaks loose for UFA’s, let’s give you a big dose of available UFA’s. Jeremy has been keeping you up to date this month, but for a day, I want to chime in too.

Kovalchuk is easily the most skilled winger available in this extremely thin UFA class. The LW averages over 40 goals and 80 points per year, and is easily considered to be an elite talent in the NHL. The knock on Kovalchuk though, is pretty much every other aspect of the game. He appears to be lazy in his own zone, and doesn’t really know what to do without the puck. In fact, the guys at Behind The Net have done some fantastic analysis of Kovalchuk’s advanced metrics. You can read about it here. There is one sentence you should focus on:

To recap that table in a sentence: Ilya Kovalchuk has been much more likely to start out in the offensive zone than his teammates, and even though he lines up against his opponents’ weaker lines, his teams have been significantly outshot while he’s on the ice. In other words, he’s a seriously negative player at even-strength.

Essentially, Kovalchuk’s stats are inflated based on his powerplay time, and his ridiculous shot percentage. Kovalchuk takes plenty of shots, and his shot is so lethal, that he is able to put the puck in the net more often. So, when you package all that together, you get a great scorer who at best is a mediocre player at even-strength.

Kovalchuk’s ridiculous salary demands have left many GMs with a sour taste in their mouths, especially after he rejected a $100 million contract from Atlanta over 12 years. Maybe he just wanted out of Atlanta, but that is a lot of money to turn down. The fact that he received a mammoth contract from the KHL probably plays a part, but since Kovalchuk’s salary is limited by the salary cap, it doesn’t play that much of a factor in the negotiation process. He simply can’t receive that kind of money in the NHL.

Kovalchuk would add another high profile, high scoring winger to the Rangers roster, but is the cost worth it? If the Rangers do in fact waive Wade Redden, should they reinvest all of that, and then some, in Kovalchuk, when they have players like Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky with expiring contracts the following year? It’s a big risk, but he really would help solve the Rangers scoring woes, even-strength play notwithstanding.


  1. brian says:

    trade for spezza instead.

    • Dave says:

      Good god no. On both accounts.

      • jurgenno88 says:

        agreed.No on both.
        Unless Kovy wants a 1 year deal! lol

        • jerry says:

          leave these alone i agree maybe take a look at savard his salary is not that bad so he can be traded easily when are youth is ready.

          • jurgenno88 says:

            Savard would be nice if his contract was not so long but then, his cap hit is only so appealing because of the length. Noto Savard too, for me.

          • Dave says:

            I don’t want Savard for another 7 years. But he’s a bargain for the next 3 with that contract.

  2. Dave says:

    It’s just interesting to see his numbers at even strength. They just show he’s not worth $7.5 million.

    • jurgenno88 says:

      Kovy is the very definition of a one way threat he just happens to be immense at that one dimension. I’d prefer to have a two way guy who comes with less fan fare. Its why i was so happy we got Gaborik. Health aside he’s an elite scorer who knows where his own blue line is and can play without the puck.

  3. Fotiu is God says:

    … Hold on, Lanny Barbie and Jenna Jameson are at the door. And, oh, BP’s just built a state-of-the-art sea turtle rehab sanctuary in the Gulf.

    C’mon man. Why even indulge the notion. Kovy’s going to either The Kings or The Lanche. They can have him.

    Let’s do a group rosary that Mess bitch-slaps Slats if he even shows the slightest inclination of picking up the phone. The Redden demotion is our first wisp of hopeful smoke.

    Next: Resign Staal–at all costs, within reason, Mr. Orr–Vinny. Then give Stepan, Byers, Wiese, Gravchev a real kick at the can. Not a pointless, 72-hour/end of the bench taste come February.

    • Dave says:

      I wouldn’t be surprised if he goes to St. Louis, they have the cap space.

      But I agree, avoid him.

  4. Dave says:

    Brian (can’t reply more) – Even if they dump Redden, they will need the cash to re-sign their RFAs this year, and then Dubi/Cally next year. Just dump him and keep the space.

    • brian says:

      you think dubi and cally will need big raises?
      And i think they can afford to re-sign RFA’s even if Redden isnt demoted

      • Dave says:

        Depending on how they perform next year, maybe. I feel like they are due for a breakout year, and that could affect their price.

  5. Jordan says:

    No. No. No.

    The idea is to have roster flexibility. Long term deals worth a lot of money prohibit this. Whether it is Spezza or Kovy or pretty much anyone in this market, the answer has to be no.

    Unless you’re talking an elite talent, a Gaborik, Hossa, etc. you do not lock up that much money for more a long term deal. It’s too dangerous and could kill the team’s potential for sustainable winning for 5 years.

    See: Redden, Wade.

    • Dave says:

      So you’re putting Kovalchuk and Spezza in the not-elite talent group?

      • brian says:

        haha they are certainly elite talent, but there is a reason the salary cap only allows a team to have so many elite talents…..

      • Jordan says:

        No, neither are elite. Neither were a top 10 forward last year.

  6. Dave says:

    However, I would definitely do a Spezza trade if they took Rozsival (and not some elite prospects), and then the Rangers waive Redden. It would be $11.5 million out, and $7.5 million in. First line center and cap space and two extra spots for prospects.

    Think about it: minus Redden, minus Rozsival, plus Spezza, plus $4 million in cap space.