The Montreal Canadiens, and more specifically Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin, took a big gamble when they made the decision to sign controversial Russian forward Ilya Kovalchuk to a mid-season contract, but there is no doubt now that the gamble has paid off and will continue to pay off for the Habs.
Kovalchuk had a catastrophic time of things as a member of the Los Angeles Kings, a team that has had its fair share of struggles this season, and after that disaster many wondered if the former National Hockey League superstar had simply become a washed up former player. You could not have been blamed for thinking as much, Kovalchuk looked like a shell of his former self with the Kings, but the buyout from the Kings that would eventually lead him to the Canadiens turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to him.
Kovalchuk has looked like a completely different player with the Habs and once again appears to have found the offensive touch that once made him such a dynamic player in the league. In 17 games with the Kings he had 3 goals and 6 assists for 9 points and was a plus minus of -10 over that stretch, however with the Habs he now has 5 goals and 4 assists for 9 points and a plus minus rating of +4 in just 11 games played. This had made Kovalchuk, who is now a one year contract that has him earning the league minimum salary, a trade commodity once again and with the deadline fast approaching many expect that the Habs will look to move him.
Recent comments from TSN National Hockey League insider Pierre LeBrun appear to have revealed what it is the Habs expect in return for Kovalchuk, however it sounds like it may take some convincing to get the aforementioned Marc Bergevin to part ways with his newest offensive weapon. From LeBrun:
Belief from some teams that the price to rent out Ilya Kovalchuk from Mtl is no less than a 2nd RD pick; also hearing Habs have discussed merits of keeping him b/c of his positive impact both on ice/in the room. Still 3 weeks to go before Feb. 24 but might be 11th hour decision.
The "no less" part of LeBrun's comment makes me suspect that Bergevin will need to be enticed with a solid offer in order to let go of Kovalchuk before the deadline. That being said though when you consider the fact that Kovalchuk comes with the best possible cap hit in the NHL I strongly suspect there will be many interested teams ahead of the trade deadline.