After the Golden Knights seemingly came out of nowhere to join the Ilya Kovalchuk sweepstakes this week, the team now finds itself as one of the final four contenders for the 35-year-old Russian forward.
The next step for these teams, which includes the Knights, San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings and Boston Bruins, is to meet with Kovalchuk’s camp. According to TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, that is exactly what happened on Friday when each of the four contenders met with Kovalchuk’s agent, J.P. Barry.
Expectation is that J.P. Barry, agent for Ilya Kovalchuk, will meet with the top four contenders for the UFA's services today _ Boston, L.A., SJ and Vegas _ to advance proceedings along.— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) June 22, 2018
At this point in time, there are not many details about how these meetings went. However, according to TSN’s Darren Dreger, Kovalchuk does not have a timeline for when he will make a decision.
JP Barry met with Boston, LA, SJ, and Vegas today on Kovalchuk. No timeline on a decision, although teams are eager to learn.— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) June 22, 2018
With $30.975 million of cap space available, as per CapFriendly.com, money is not an issue for the Golden Knights like it is for the Bruins or Kings. Of course, that doesn’t mean the Knights should break the bank on a 35-year-old forward, but it does mean that Vegas can make Kovalchuk a good offer.
As for what the Knights would potentially offer him, there has been a lot of speculation. According to John Hoven, the Golden Knights have pitched Kovalchuk a two-year deal at $5 million per season with the promise of playing on the team’s top power play unit.
Hearing this is the pitch Vegas made for Kovalchuk in past few hours - Two years at 5M per and play first unit power play.— The Mayor John Hoven (@mayorNHL) June 22, 2018
Which is basically the same deal we've been saying fits the LA Kings https://t.co/8fPPY17BRa
Would that be enough to sign Kovalchuk? Maybe. But according to NBC Sports Boston’s DJ Bean, Kovalchuk compares himself to Patrick Marleau, who faced a similar situation as a veteran free agent last summer before signing with Toronto. Kovalchuk would either like a deal similar to Marleau’s three-year, $18.75 million contract ($6.25 million average annual value) or a shorter two-year deal with a higher cap hit.
Kovalchuk’s ask? Source says Marleau is the comp; Marleau signed 3 x $6.25 million at age 36. Kovalchuk is 35. Seeking a higher AAV than Marleau if it’s a two-year deal. Term very important— DJ Bean (@DJ_Bean) June 22, 2018
Again, cap space is not an issue for the Golden Knights, but it would be surprising to see them offer Kovalchuk a deal similar to what the Leafs gave Marleau. Yes, Kovalchuk could help Vegas, particularly on the power play, but a three-year deal for a 35-year-old player who has been out of the NHL for five seasons just doesn’t seem like something George McPhee would do.
But considering the way McPhee and the Knights suddenly joined the Kovalchuk sweepstakes out of nowhere, it probably won’t be all that surprising if they do, in fact, sign Kovy to a three-year deal. However, McPhee denies having any discussions with Kovalchuk’s agent, so it’s difficult to know exactly what is going for the time being.
Either way, stay tuned. The Kovalchuk sweepstakes might be down to four teams, but when he will actually make a decision is anyone’s guess.