Montreal Canadiens Sign Ilya Kovalchuk for Remainder of Season

The Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin has been busy since Thursday night.

After a trade that sent Mike Reilly to the Ottawa Senators and acquiring defenceman Marco Scandella from the Buffalo Sabres, the Montreal Canadiens announced that they have signed Ilya Kovalchuk to a one-year, two-way deal at $700, 000.

This move may come as a bit of surprise for both Kovalchuk and the Canadiens but there is some sense that can be made out of this signing.

At 36 years of age and a failed second season with the Los Angeles Kings where Ilya Kovalchuk saw his contract terminated, this may be his last chance to play again in the NHL. With 9 points (3 goals, 6 assists) in 17 games this season, Kovalchuk may be able to help the Canadiens powerplay which is missing key players due to injuries.

Bad News for Brendan Gallagher?

Given the fact that Ilya Kovalchuk is a right-winger, this could be mean that Brendan Gallagher may miss an extended period of time due to a concussion which would be a big loss for the Canadiens. Brendan Gallagher went down against the Carolina Hurricanes after a collision with teammate Ben Chiarot that forced him to leave the game.

If Gallagher is out for longer than expected, the Montreal Canadiens will be missing the heart and soul of their lineup and will need players to step in and provide stability until his return. Kovalchuk will not have the same offensive output but he has years of NHL experience that can be a useful filler until Gallagher’s return.

This can also mean that either Paul Byron, Joel Armia or Jonathan Drouin may be the out longer than expected but it remains to be seen.

A Surprise, to be Sure, but a Welcome One

Although Ilya Kovalchuk will not have the impact that he would have made in his prime on the Montreal Canadiens, the signing makes sense given that the Canadiens are having an injury-prone season and are missing four important wingers in Jonathan Drouin, Paul Byron, Brendan Gallagher and Joel Armia so Kovalchuk can be seen as a sort of damage control.

It is currently difficult to speculate where Claude Julien would place Kovalchuk in the lineup as it’s hard to see where he would be a perfect fit. Solely through speculation, the first line with Tomas Tatar and Philip Danault or the third line with Ryan Poehling and Jesperi Kotkaniemi may be likely candidates.

At a $700, 000 cap hit, this is a low-risk, high-reward trade for the Montreal Canadiens. They didn’t have to give up any draft picks, and he is making less than any other player on the team. There is a slight chance he finds chemistry in the lineup and bridges the gap until the Habs are healthy.