“Lucic bangs Markov in the corner, the pucks bounces to Savard. Savard looks, passes, SCORE! Kovalchuk with a beautiful snipe!” Oh my how good would that sound?
Let’s start out by talking about who Ilya Kovalchuk is. The former 2001 first overall pick is the current captain of the Atlanta Thrashers and one of the top 5 pure goal scorers in the game, up there with the likes of Alexander Ovechkin, Dany Heatley, and Jarome Iginla. Kovalchuk is a left winger, but could easily slide over to the right wing. He has tremendous speed, a wicked shot and a booming slapper. Kovalchuk has scored 38 or more goals since his 2nd season in the league, and has scored 50 goals twice. In 2005-06, Kovalchuk had 52 goals and 98 points in 78 games with current Bruin pivot Marc Savard as his center. On the powerplay, Kovalchuk is a roamer who plays the point with his powerful slap shot. Did I mention Kovalchuk is only 26 and hitting his prime?
The Boston Bruins are an organization who have yet to find a franchise forward since Cam Neely was here. Adam Oates was the man for a while, but he was only here a few seasons. Joe Thornton was supposed be that guy, but playoff chokes caused him to be traded to San Joe at the ripe age of 26. This is an organization who cannot find a guy who can consistently put up a lot of goals for the past decade. Bill Guerin was here for a season, and Glen Murray’s run lasted two years. Phil Kessel was developing into a legit goal scorer, but he was a prima donna and was sent packing for high draft picks at the age of 21.
This fan base deserves a prize like Kovalchuk. Since the days of Neely, Bourque and Oates, when has this team ever made a move for a superstar player? Pre-lockout, this team refused to pay top dollar for elite free agents. We were always toyed with names like Jeremy Roenick, but never paid up to sign them, it was just a lowball offer to satisfy the fans. We saw guys like Adam Oates, Joe Thornton, Ray Bourque, and Jason Allison traded away, but we rarely got a great player in return. Once we acquired Bill Guerin, only to see him walk away a season later to a mega deal with the Dallas Stars. The biggest move I can recall is the blockbuster trade the deadline before the lockout, in which the Bruins acquired Sergei Gonchar and Michael Nylander from the Washington Capitals. It sucked to see them both leave along with Brian Rolston and Mike Knuble because we thought we could replace them with cheaper players, like Brian Leetch, Alexei Zhamnov and Dave Scatchard. Mike O’Connell attempted to acquire Chris Pronger from the St. Louis Blues for Nick Boynton plus, only to see him send to the Oilers for Eric Brewer and spare parts. That season turned out well for the B’s.
Other franchises have been aggressive, such as the Detroit Red Wings, who have always brought in elite talent year after year. The San Jose Sharks have been involved in every mega deal the past few years, acquiring Joe Thornton, Dan Boyle, and Dany Heatley to revamp their franchise, as well as adding pieces like Craig Rivet, Bill Guerin and Brian Campbell during trade deadlines. While they haven’t won a cup yet, they have been a top 3 team in the league for a few years now. The Pittsburgh Penguins gambled on Marian Hossa and it almost won them a cup. They could have re-signed him to if it weren’t for them already having two franchise forwards in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. This organization has refused to be aggressive. Last year, a team that was playing well above expectations, could have made a move for Chris Pronger. Instead, they played it conservative and ended up with Steve Montador as their defensive addition. The Bruins lost two OT games to the ‘Canes in an eventual 7 game series loss, maybe Pronger could have helped win that series, especially with Zdeno Chara already being on the team. Anaheim won a cup with a decent offense, great goaltending and Niedermayer and Pronger. Sounds similar to us that season.
Not only is Kovalchuk exactly what this team needs, he is the perfect player. This team can’t piss away chances at being cup contenders as guys like Tim Thomas, Marc Savard and Zdeno Chara age. This team has the chance to be REALLY good as seen last season. They have a strong defense, and great goaltending. If we could just score 3 goals more often, we’d be a top the East right now. Kovalchuk adds that presence. He also played with Marc Savard before, so there is instant chemistry, and I’m sure he wouldn’t mind being on the same line with the guy who he had a career year with.
People want to make the argument that keeping you’re assets instead of dealing them for Kovalchuk would be better. Wrong. Guys like Kovalchuk become available maybe once in a decade. You need to be aggressive and get what you want. You have to look at it this way. Is it easier to replace what I traded than what I am trading for? In other words, I can easily replace a Wheeler or Stuart via free agency, but a Kovalchuk is almost impossible to get.
People also want to make the argument that he is just a rental and we can’t let him walk. If you acquire Kovalchuk, you can re-sign him. Boston is an attractive market for player, believe it or not. He can easily fit under this teams cap, with money coming off the books soon from buyouts and such. Ryder and Sturm are also free agents in two seasons, while one or both would likely be included in a deal anyways. Not to mention, Chara will likely sign an extension at a lower cap hit than 7.5 million ala Chris Pronger’s deal in Philadelphia. You can also sign Kovalchuk to a long term deal stretching 15 years to lower the cap hit to something more reasonable than 10 million.
So what would it take? Who cares as long as it does not include Tuukka Rask, Chara, Savard, Bergeron, Krejci or Toronto’s 2010 first round pick. I’m sure something could be done. Christ, Pittsburgh won a bidding war for Hossa with an offer of Christensen, Armstrong, Esposito and a 1st round pick. Nothing great there. A lot of times, the return for a superstar is less than super.
This team needs a franchise forward going forward. The old philosophy that two 20 goals scorers is as good as a 40 is crap, as we have seen ourselves. When those two 20 goal scorers go ice cold for 15 games and your team struggles to score 2 goals a game, you would like to have a guy who scores at a every other game pace.
For those who don’t want to make this deal, think about the day when you actually have a sniper, but the team around him sucks, there is no defense or goaltending. It’s kind of like being a Thrahsers fan. This team can’t keep wasting away chances of being something special because they lack in one department. Ilya Kovalchuk could be the Bruins answer. The Bruins need him, and the fans deserve him.