Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Kovalchuk Sweepstakes

Most of the NHL coverage after the Stanley Cup naturally surrounds the draft and free agency, as teams look to rebuild or otherwise restock the shelves.

This year is no different.

The three biggest prizes in free agency this year are John Tavares, John Carlson, and Ilya Kovalchuk, the latter notably having played the last five seasons in the KHL after breaking his 400 year contract with the New Jersey Devils.

It has been widely reported that Kovalchuk is only interested in joining a serious Cup contender, and only then, on a two-year pact.

With that in mind, here are the candidates, and a dark horse:

Los Angeles Kings:

Why:  This one makes sense.  The Kings were a middle of the road offensive team, finishing 16th in the league, but once again dominating defensively, allowing the fewest goals league-wide.  Kovalchuk could add some speed and size to an already heavy team, one that was swept by a faster and equally heavy Golden Knights squad.

Why not:  The Kings are tight against the cap, and if Kovalchuk signs for the expected two years, it would severely limit the ability to re-sign Adrian KempeAlex Iafallo, and Drew Doughty, all of whom will be free agents after next season (the former two will be restricted and likely due for a big raise; Doughty is unlikely to receive too sizable of a pay hike on top of his $7MM).

San Jose Sharks:

Why: Why not?  The move would reunite Kovalchuk with Peter DeBoer, who coached him on the Cup run in New Jersey in 2011-12.  It would also add scoring depth to an already deep Sharks team, and too much scoring depth is never a bad thing.  The signing could also provide insurance in case Joe Thornton struggles to recover from another injury (provided he signs), or if Evander Kane fails to meet lofty expectations.  Plus, after Paul Martin gets bought out, the Sharks should have plenty of cap space - if they are unable to land the biggest fish on the Island, that is.

Why not: Does anyone think the 2017-18 San Jose Sharks were a 35 year old money grabber away from a Stanley Cup berth?  Probably not. 

New York Rangers:

Why:  Kovalchuk played for years across the river, and it will be hard to dismiss the draw of the New York spotlight.  With lots of speed up front, Kovalchuk could be a good fit, but without another major draw, too much of the offensive burden could be borne by the 35 year old.  However, they have plenty of cap space to target everyone on the market, and it is not inconceivable for the big game Rangers to land both Tavares and Kovalchuk.  In that case, the results should follow.

Why not:  See above.  Also, the Rangers Stanley Cup window is probably already closed, and while adding Kovalchuk might give Henrik Lundqvist one last shot, it is fair to question how much of an uplift Kovalchuk will bring. 

Boston Bruins:

Why:  The Bruins were one game away from the Eastern Conference Finals, and have showed that their core is solid enough to justify the cost of bringing in Rick Nash.  Kovalchuk might be enough to take them to the next level, or at the very least, resurrect David Krejci's career.  We like this fit, so naturally, we hope it does not happen.

Why not:  The Bruins are tight against the cap and might be ill-advised to bring in another veteran.  The kids can play, and while Kovalchuk will be an obvious upgrade up front, the question of whether to go all-in for one more run with Zdeno Chara persists.

Detroit Red Wings:

Why:  The Wings have a ton of cap space, and plenty of draft picks in the next two years, so the future looks bright in the Motor City.  Adding a premier talent like Kovalchuk to the fold could obviously help.

Why not:  The Wings are not a playoff team with this roster.  Kovalchuk would be no closer to a Cup in Detroit than in any of the other cities in this list.

St. Louis Blues:

Why:  The Blues have an A+ top line, and are certainly in the market to bring back Paul Stastny to anchor the second unit.  Kovalchuk fits in nicely on a heavy and skilled team, one which may be stuck at the kids table in a top heavy Central Division without at least one more piece. 

Why not:  If the Blues are sticking to the youth movement, adding Kovalchuk does not make sense.  Never mind - it still makes sense.  He is a great fit in the Loo.

Dallas Stars:

Why:  Joining one of the best one-two punches in the league in Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, Alex Radulov showed that a heavy player can spend a long stretch in the KHL and meet NHL success (granted he played a season in Montreal first, but he was much more productive in Dallas).  But Dallas is in desperate need of secondary scoring after a season in which only three forwards managed 35 points.  Kovalchuk seemingly solves that problem immediately.

Why not:  After giving Martin Hanzal a whale of a free agent deal, the Stars may be reluctant to shell out too much. 

Anaheim Ducks:

Why: If the Ducks decide to move Corey Perry, a fading light, they can afford Kovalchuk.  If not, forget about it.  But does the team walk away from a 32 year old sniper on the rapid decline only to replace him with a 35 year enigma? 

Why not:  John Gibson is due a monster raise after next season, and the Ducks may not want to commit to Kovalchuk's salary demands if it means having to pick between Adam Henrique and Jakob Silfverberg (we are assuming Gibson is signed at all costs).

The dark horse: Pittsburgh Penguins:

Why:  Could you imagine Kovalchuk with Evgeni Malkin on the second line?  Assuming Phil Kessel is moved, as rumored, the Penguins would have the cap space, the shoes to fill, and with GM Rutherford committing to a more competitive squad next season, the obvious need.  But that is a big assumption - why would they move the 7th leading scorer as reliable as Kessel to begin with?

Why not:  Kovalchuk is probably not an upgrade over Phil Kessel.  

Friday, June 8, 2018

The Caps win!

Finally, and in dominating fashion, the Capitals win the Stanley Cup.  After winning a third straight division title, your Washington Capitals ran the field in the 'loffs, clinching all four series on the road, and putting a huge exclamation mark on what has been a heartbreaking journey.  In the end, though, it is all worth it.

This is everything.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Westward Bound

The Capitals did it.  Braden Holtby pulled off his best Jaro Halak impression, slamming the door for almost 8 straight periods, helping the Capitals advance to their first Stanley Cup in 20 years.  Alex Ovechkin picked up a nifty game winner, too.

On to Vegas.

Capitals @ Lightning, Game 7, Eastern Conference Finals

It is finally here.  What we have been waiting for all day, checking the clock, waiting to run out of work like Fred Flintstone, grab a cold one, and settle in.

Game 7.  Eastern Conference Finals.  A chance at redemption, a last hurrah.  The most exciting time in sports.  The odds are against the Capitals, but no matter; all will be decided on the ice.

Prediction: Caps 2, Lightning 1.

Ovechkin and Kuznetsov with the goals for the Capitals, and Kucherov for the Lightning.

And then onto Vegas.

Let's go!

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Jake Guentzel will not have hearing for his cheap shot on John Carlson

As expected, Jake Guentzel will not have a hearing for his cheap shot on an unsuspecting John Carlson

Had the roles been reversed, this probably would have been called a little differently.

No matter though.  A 5'11" rookie who has to hide behind the referees will get his sooner rather than later.  Further, the Capitals should pay it forward and spend all of game 6 pummeling Sidney Crosby - how effective can Guentzel be without Crosby feeding him layups? 

Win it for Willy continues tomorrow night, in what should be the last game of the series.