While digging for information and comparisons for Martin Erat and to justify what the Predators pay for the talented left winger, I stumbled across another player that put up very similar numbers. Alex Kovalev was a repeating factor when it came to goals, assists and the salary cap hit around $4.5-5M to Martin Erat, but when I looked to see what team Alex Kovalev was on…he was in the KHL.
In a great article by Montreal Gazette writer Dave Stubbs, it seems that Kovalev is truly wanting to come back to the NHL. In the middle of a two year contract with the KHL:
“Atlant Moscow Oblast club told him they could buy him out then, or simply cancel the second year of his pact.”
This leaves Kovalev as a player without a team and in a reluctant position. He reiterates in the article that:
“The preference is always going to be a team I’ve played on (Canadiens, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators) because you know the environment.”
But in the end, should the Predators at least make a play for the aging winger?
With the emergence of Jaromir Jagr as a powerhouse who put up 54 points with an offense-laden Philadelphia squad with Scott Hartnell and Claude Giroux, Jagr landed himself a pretty sweet new contract with the Dallas Stars (1 yr, $4.5M). Although Kovalev’s numbers aren’t as staggering as Jagr, who is virtually a lock for a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer, Kovalev in his last two seasons in the NHL put up moderate numbers with 34G, 49A and 83P while playing in 151 of 164 possible games.
Kovalev let it be known that:
“(He) will be ready if and when the call comes…I’m working hard, training three times a week and keeping in shape,” he said. “Hopefully, somebody will get interested.”
The interest has been focused by many Predator fans hoping that GM David Poile would make a play for Shane Doan, a very talented right winger who is asking for upwards of $6M per year.
Some have also suggested lesser paid UFA’s such as Petr Sykora who could fill the need of bringing in a Shane Doan but at a third of the cost.
With Kovalev, the Predators could feasibly kill two birds with one stone. Kovalev has the ability to be a game changer…or at least he did a few seasons ago. He claims that he has fully recovered from his knee surgery and that his rehab may have cost him his contract in the KHL stating:
“I didn’t want to play for a team (Atlant Moscow Oblast) that didn’t want me, so that was pretty much it.”
So now it becomes a waiting game for Alex Kovalev and his agent. Would a team like the Predators be willing to take a chance on a soon-to-be 40 year old winger with a potential for greatness? It worked for Philly with Jagr and Poile is a genius when it comes to low-risk/high-reward signings. If the Predators could sign Kovalev to a decent one year contract in the $2-2.5M range, it might happen that Kovalev would outperform his contract to prove that he belongs in the upper echelon of aging NHL stars like Jagr. He can also provide the Stanley Cup experience and tutelage for players like Colin Wilson, Craig Smith and Gabriel Bourque.
What say you Predator fans? Do you agree? Disagree? Agressively disagree? Tell me what you think about giving Kovalev a shot, even if it’s for a training camp invite. Feel free to comment below and follow us on Twitter @ThePredatorial and @Preducated.