So Bob Gainey asked Kovalev to stay behind, giving him time to take a break and regain his old form. Between the lines, Gainey hinted that Kovalev is for sale, “…it is the trading season” he says. But with the underperforming season Kovalev has so far – 13G 26A 39Pts in 57 games, what’s the value of Kovalev???
Let’s take a look at some facts:
Kovalev is 35, an UFA by season end, at 4.5-million cap dollars. Not exactly your Steven Stamkos! If he had traded Kovalev away to Atlanta for Mathieu Schneider, Habs fans would’ve praised Gainey’s selling skills. Of course, the Thrasher organization is trying to dump salary for picks, there’s no way this deal can be done.
So let’s get back to the question, who would want Kovalev??
He is after all a very skillful right-winger, who can provide secondary scoring on a third line for a contending team. That is if he’s motivated enough. What could be a good motivation for a player like him? He’s won a Stanley Cup, during his early days with the Rangers in 1994, so the quest for the cup can hardly count as anything for him.
But let’s give him benefit of the doubt. Let’s say he wishes to win the cup again before he retires. Keep in mind that only contending teams are willing to land a rental player like Kovalev. But which contending team is in need of a right winger?
The Bruins can use a veteran player like Kovalev, with their young roster, and they don’t have a lot of good RW. Ryder’s injury will sideline him for a few weeks, and Wheeler or Kobasew don’t have a lot of playoff experience. So the Bruins may be an option. But they are close to the cap, even under a pro-rated price may still have to send a few players down to the farm in order to accomodate Alexei.
But I think the most likely destination for Kovalev will be Columbus. Since they have a lot of cap space left – more than 5-million. Their best natural right-winger is rookie Jakub Voracek, so they can surely use a good veteran scorer. The Blue Jackets now sit at the eighth spot in the west, still very much in cup-contention. If they can add Kovalev, it will surely add to their chance of making the playoff for the first time since joining the league in 2003.
The Blue Jackets have gathered a lot of good young players throughout their non-playoff years, and they are willing to offer some good picks for Kovalev. But for Montreal, a team in desperate need to add more fire power will not be happy with just picks, although this may counter the move to get Schneider.
So I am guessing:
2nd round pick 2009
conditional 3rd round pick 2010 if CLB makes the playoff
Blue Jackets –
Who knows? Maybe Gainey will turn around and trade the two picks for another rental forwards. Of course, this is just my guess, and it has nothing to do with reality. Let’s see if my prediction is correct.