Ilya Kovalchuk is returning to the NHL from an extended stay with SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL. After winning the Gragarin Cup twice in 2015 and 2017, Kovalchuk helped (Not) Russia capture the gold medal at the 2018 Olympics. The former Rocket Richard winner has been tied to either the San Jose Sharks or the Los Angeles Kings, but other teams are throwing their hats into the ring.
Kovalchuk had 31 goals and 32 assists in 51 games last year in the KHL. Yes, the NHL and KHL are completely different beasts - ask Vladimir Sobotka - but the 35 year old Kovalchuk still has consistent firepower and speed. Is he the same player that he was ten years ago? Of course not. Is he still a threat and fun to watch? Absolutely.
“Always looking to improve our team,” Armstrong said. “We’re like all teams. He’s 35 years old, there’s risk involved with players of that age. But he could be Jaromir Jagr. He could start slowing down at 41. Or he could come back and hit the wall. You never know.
”But there’s certainly intrigue there because he’s been such a dominant player internationally and he was a helluva player when he left (the NHL).”
“There’s nothing planned yet on a visit but we certainly talked to his agent asking him to explore our situation and see if there’s interest.”
So, why would the Blues need Kovalchuk? Have you seen the team’s scoring? The Blues were 23rd in the league with 223 goals scored and overall they had just a +1 goal differential. The power play was flat-out embarrassing at 15.4%, which was second to last in the entire NHL. The Blues could benefit from Kovalchuk on the power play. First off, it’d probably eliminate that silly habit of trying to play Tarasenko on the point, because that’s Kovalchuk’s wheelhouse. Second off, Kovalchuk actually scores with the man advantage. He has 138 PPG in his NHL career and 315 power play points.
Finally, Kovalchuk and Tarasenko are former SKA St. Petersburg teammates, and let’s say that the chemistry is reciprocal:
I know ages ago I advocated for the Blues to pass on Kovalchuk, but that was a different team and a different Kovalchuk. The Blues absolutely need someone with scoring ability, and despite his age, Kovy could be that guy.