Since the signing of Vadim Shipachyov from the KHL news surrounding the Vegas Golden Knights has been swarming with that General Manager George McPhee and the organization has been linked to rumblings that the team is just getting started in the transactions department.
Earlier this week it was reported the former NHLer Ilya Kovalchuk is looking to make his return to North America and give it another go. The snag that is surrounding Kovalchuk is that he is on the VRL (Voluntarily Retired List) which makes still virtually property of the New Jersey Devils.
New Jersey Devils General Manager Ray Shero officially confirmed it that Kovalchuk wants to return to the NHL. He’s been away from the league for the past 4 seasons where he’s been playing the SKA St. Peterburg of the KHL along with former teammate Shipachyov and potentially the next Russian forward to ink with Vegas Evgeni Dadonov.
Over the past 4 campaigns with SKA St. Petersburg Kovalchuk has played in 245 regular season games to his credit and produced over that span 107 goals and registered 157 assists for 264 points.
His KHL playoffs figures are 54 games as he recorded 17 goals and 16 assists at 33 points. He won the KHL’s Gagarin Cup along with Shipachyov and Dadonov.
In order for the former 1st rounder to be in play, Shero will need to sign Kovalchuk to a new NHL contract that makes sense for both sides and then asks for a trade with partner willing dance with that could get the deal done. For Vegas
For McPhee, this could be something to consider given that Kovalchuk provides the veteran presence that is required by any roster around the league. Since Kovalchuk is still widely known by the NHL fandom having a big name in Vegas would potentially attract other players to follow especially the younger generation talent.
As it stands as of today Vegas still has $68.5 million left in cap space to work with.
Before he went on VRL with New Jersey Kovalchuk signed originally signed a huge 17-year deal that caused quite a stir around the league and shook a lot of heads in the process.
His initial deal was worth a massive total of $102 million that was denied by the league because violated the CBA in terms of salary cap circumvention. The Devils revised his original deal and reduced to the term to a 15-year deal at $100 million.
Another player that comes into Vegas’s radar this past week is Washington Capitals forward Alexander Ovechkin. Ovechkin fell victim once again in the Sid vs. Ovi story this time it was Act 3 as he now has a 0-3 record in playoff matchups against the Penguins Captain.
Since Ovechkin has been in the league the Washington Capitals have been to the Stanley Cup Playoffs 9 times. Those 9 playoff appearances during the Ovi Storied Chapter his team has not been able to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.
His Capitals team captured the Presidents Trophy three times (2009-2010, 2015-2016, and 2016-2017). Each of those seasons did not result in playoff success by any means especially the last two seasons with back-2-back playoff defeat courtesy of Pittsburgh.
For Ovechkin and Washington, I think the writing is on the wall that its time for both sides to part ways.
ESPN’s studio Analyst Barry Melrose who came on CBS’s DC new’s outlet and was interviewed by their own Chris Lingebach and talked about the matter further.
“He can’t win in Washington right now, and so, theoretically, it would be good for him to move onto another team with a fresh start also. This team, 10, 11 years, they don’t win. They don’t get to the third round. They’re always winning the Presidents’ Trophy. They’re always one of the best teams in the NHL. They’re always one of the most exciting teams in the NHL. They spend as much money as any other team in the NHL. But they never get to the third round. It’s time to do something if you’re a Washington Capital fan.” Melrose said.
The regular season success that he is talking about has unfortunately been one that has yet to be reflected in the NHL’s second season. For Ovechkin, he may want a change of scenery to a marketplace where he get a fresh start and Vegas is a possibile destination spot in that regard.
McPhee has a history with Ovechkin as he was his only lottery winning pick in the 2004 NHL Entry at 1st overall. He got to see Ovi burst on the scene and watched him capture the league highest honor as a rookie and won the Calder Trophy in the 2005-2006 campaign, the same campaign in which he recorded his 1st 50 goal season.
He got to see Ovi burst on the scene and watched him capture the league highest honor as a rookie and won the Calder Trophy in the 2005-2006 campaign, the same campaign in which he recorded his 1st 50 goal season.
During his time in Washington McPhee saw Ovechkin win the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy 4 times (2007-2008 at 65 goals, 2008-2009 with 56 goals, 2012-2013* at 32 goals, and 2013-2014 collected 51 goals).
If Vegas and Washington can work out a deal that makes sense for both sides Ovechkin could be reunited with the man who drafted him into the league 13 years ago.
An interesting name that came into view this week is Nail Yakupov of the St. Louis Blues. Yakupov was originally selected by the Edmonton Oilers back in the 2012 NHL Draft at 1st overall.
Yakupov spent 4 seasons with Oilers organization and played in 252 games with Edmonton. Along the way, he scored 50 goals and collected 61 assists at 111 points. These numbers are below standard from a player selected at 1st overall in his respected draft class and that was unacceptable by the former 4-time Stanley Cup winning franchise.
On OCTOBER 7, 2016, Yakupov was to St. Louis Blues by the Edmonton Oilers for F Zach Pochiro and a conditional draft pick. This trade was deemed by Yakupov to be one to give his NHL career a fresh restart, however, his woes would continue to follow him from Canada to the United States.
In his first season with the Blues Yakupov skated in 40 games and recorded a disappointing 3 goals and 6 assists. The issue with Yakupov is his playing time which he has not been getting with St. Louis due to he as he was “a frequent healthy scratch during the regular season” Per RotoWire.
Even when he was considered to be in full health status he had problems getting quality playing time. With Vegas on the map now could make the most logical destination for Yakupov as he desperately needs ice time. This will give his confidence a major boost and will allow he develop his overall game.
If he does in fact come westward it will be interesting to see where Golden Knights Head Coach Gerard Gallant inserts him into the lineup. Being around fellow Russians could pay some dividends both in the short term as well as in the long term.
Since McPhee has experience with dealing with Russian hockey players in his past these players mentioned above could be some options worth entertianing.