By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Bruins Senior Staff Writer
There is a reason that the days and weeks leading up to the NHL Draft in late June and the start of free agency on July 1st is generally looked upon as the NHL’s Silly Season. Sure, things get a little crazy around the trade deadline in late February, but nothing quite compares to the rumors that fly around like a swarm of mosquitoes on a hot summer’s night as they do on an annual basis this time of year.
As any Bruins fan who has access to the internet knows, TSN’s Darren Dreger listed the B’s as one of the “top contenders” to sign soon to be former New Jersey Devils star and 5-year KHL veteran Ilya Kovalchuk as the former star plans to take whatever talents he has left back to the NHL next season. During an interview on Montreal’s TSN 690 on Tuesday morning, Dreger listed St. Louis, Dallas, Anaheim, Detroit and the Islanders as “dark horse” teams in the race to sign the 35-year-old winger.
He then added, “And then beyond that, probably more solid contenders include the likes of San Jose and Los Angeles, and I’d put the Boston Bruins in that group and maybe the New York Rangers as well. So there’s a total of nine teams.”
Of course, as news of these comments swept through social media, many loyal black and gold sunglass wearing fans all over New England and beyond, had visions of the once prolific goal scorer piping in 30 or more next season riding aside David Krejci and opposite first-year surprise Jake DeBrusk.
However, there is one small problem with that. This Kovalchuk is not the 22 or 24-year-old version of himself that potted 52 goals in the mid-2000’s for the then Atlanta Thrashers. In fact, this likely isn’t the 29-year-old player who put up 31 points in 37 games during the strike-shortened 2012-13 campaign. Yet, as Dreger reported as recently as June 1st on TSN.com, the overaged winger will not come at a discount rate. Dreger wrote, “It’s believed he’s hoping to land a two or three-year package, similar to the agreement Patrick Marleau signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs last summer, which averages $6.25 million per year.”
If this is the deal being presented by the once lightning quick left winger’s agent J.P. Barry to the Bruins, if I’m general manager Don Sweeney I would have a swift, four-word reply.
Thanks, but no thanks.
The team that calls Causeway Street home is already carrying some onerous contracts that will continue to weigh heavy on their salary cap space for players that are in decline. David Krejci – who was one of the bonus babies that was highly overvalued by former GM Peter Chiarelli during his time in Boston – is still owed $7.25 million over the next three seasons on the six-year extension he signed with the club in 2014.
The 32-year-old second line center has been on the decline for years and has dealt with several different injuries along the way, including a lingering back issue that held him to just 64 games played last season.
Along with the financial anchor Krejci has become, the Bruins still have three years at $6M per on the ill-advised David Backes signing from two years ago. At 34, the aged center/winger often looks as if he is skating in wet concrete, as the speed of the game has clearly passed him by.
Oh, and both players have no movement clauses written into their over-priced deals, so trading either one simply isn’t an option.
When you add the $2.6 million still on the books against the cap through the ’19-’20 season, for Matt Beleskey – who was part of the deal that brought Rick Nash to Boston from the Rangers – and Dennis Seidenberg who was bought out a year too early, Sweeney has plenty of dead money around that should sway him from taking a flyer on an over the hill Kovalchuk.
Like I said before, this is hockey’s silly season. Here’s hoping the Bruins brass doesn’t get stupid during it.