The Washington Capitals announced on Sunday night that they have acquired forward Ilya Kovalchuk from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for a third-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, just hours ahead of the NHL Trade Deadline at 3 PM ET on Monday. The Canadiens will retain half of his $700,000 cap hit for the remainder of the season.
“Ilya is a talented offensive player who we feel will provide us with additional depth and flexibility up front. He is a skilled forward who can make plays and contribute to our offensive game,” GM Brian MacLellan said in a statement.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) February 24, 2020
After getting his three-year contract that carried a cap hit of $6.25 million per season terminated by the Los Angeles Kings in December, the 36-year-old signed a one-year, $700,000 contract with the Canadiens shortly after. He is on a two-way deal.
Not kidding when I say this, the Habs retained 50 percent on Kovalchuk’s league minimum salary and cap hit. So about 76k. Every dime counts for the cap-challenged Captials.
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) February 24, 2020
Kovalchuk posted three goals, nine points, and a -10 rating in 17 games with the Kings this season before doubling his goal output and notching 13 points and a +6 rating in 22 games with the Canadiens.
In 919 career NHL games with the Canadiens, Kings, New Jersey Devils, and Atlanta Thrashers, Kovalchuk has posted 442 goals, 872 points, and a -146 rating. His best season came with the Thrashers in 2005-06 when he tied his career-high with 52 goals and set his personal best in points with 98 in 78 games. He won the Maurice Rocket Richard Trophy as the league’s top goal-scorer in 2003-04 when he notched 41 goals in 81 games with the Thrashers.
In 32 career Stanley Cup Playoff games, Kovalchuk has posted 11 goals, 27 points, and a -8 rating. He recorded eight goals, 19 points, and a -7 rating in 23 games during the Devils’ run to the 2012 Stanley Cup Final, where they lost in six games to the Los Angeles Kings.
In 262 career KHL games with SKA St. Petersburg, Kovalchuk posted 120 goals, 285 points, and a +40 rating. He averaged at least a point-per-game three times during his five seasons there.
Kovulchuk met with the media Monday morning in Montreal.
Kovalchuk has been an NHL All-Star three times in his career.
While averaging 17:22 worth of ice-time per game, including 2:37 on the power-play, Kovalchuk has posted 20 blocked shots, 40 hits, nine takeaways, and 25 giveaways with the Kings and Canadiens this season.
With the addition of Kovalchuk, the Capitals add a low-risk but potentially high-reward acquisition in Kovalchuk to an offense that already ranks third in the NHL this season with an average of 3.47 goals-per-game. Though, they have gotten just 14 goals from their third-line wingers in Richard Panik and Carl Hagelin, who have missed 10 and 11 games, respectively, due to lower-body injuries this season. Kovalchuk’s arrival could also boost a power-play that converts at only a 20.4% efficiency, the league average, despite loads of talent on the unit.
Kovalchuk will likely slot into the Capitals’ bottom-six forward group, most likely on the third-line. Panik could be demoted to the fourth-line and Brendan Leipsic could find himself out of the lineup now with Kovalchuk on board. Kovalchuk could also earn some time on the Capitals’ second power-play unit.
The Capitals currently have $676,553 in cap space and could be done making moves. Though, the team is reportedly looking to move defenseman Nick Jensen before the deadline hits on Monday afternoon.
By Harrison Brown