As the Montreal Canadiens likely shift into seller mode, these five teams should be looking to trade for Ilya Kovalchuk.
After a disappointing run with the Los Angeles Kings, Ilya Kovalchuk cleared waivers in mid-December and signed with the Montreal Canadiens shortly after. Expectations for him were pretty low, but a prorated league minimum contract ($700,000) made him a worthy flier for Montreal as they dealt with some injuries up front.
In 15 games for the Canadiens entering Monday, Kovalchuk has 12 points (six goals, six assists; three game-winning goals) with a plus-6 rating. Since a seven-game losing streak that started in late-December, the Canadiens have won nine of their last 12 games to push back into a clogged up Eastern Conference playoff race. They are six points back of the second wild card spot entering Monday.
But that recent run feels flimsy. Five of those wins, including the last three in a row entering Monday night’s game against the Arizona Coyotes, have been shootout or overtime wins for Montreal. Reverse even a couple of those recent results, and there wouldn’t be many more clear-cut trade deadline sellers out there.
With a minimum salary, a good run of production and plenty of teams looking for scoring help, this is the point where the Canadiens can sell Kovalchuk at the peak of his value.
These five teams should be looking to make a deal for Ilya Kovachuk before the Feb. 24 trade deadline.
5. Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins appear to be on hunt for wing help, with Jake Guentzel (shoulder) out for the season and Alex Galchenyuk having a disappointing season after coming in via the Phil Kessel trade last summer. Jason Zucker and Chris Kreider stand atop the heap of players they may especially target over the next two weeks, but Kovalchuk should be on the list too.
Pittsburgh is always trying to make a push to win a Stanley Cup, and nothing is ever truly off the table in terms of trades at the deadline. Without a lot of cap space to take on someone like Zucker, who is under contract through 2022-23, a move to add Kovalchuk looks a little more palatable unless Galchenyuk can be offloaded on someone.