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.