As the Florida Panthers move further into the offseason, it appears they are interested in adding a forward. Would Ilya Kovalchuk make sense for the Cats?
Now that the Stanley Cup playoffs are officially over, the entire NHL has moved into offseason mode. Teams are now devoting their full attention to making their roster better as they get ready for the 2018-19 season. By now, most teams are trying to figure out how they will address the needs of their hockey team so that they can work towards winning the cup in 2019.
For the Panthers, just like every other team, know that they need to address some issues on their roster. While the Cats have a few needs that need to be addressed, one of the glaring needs is adding a top-six forward to the team.
It was obvious throughout the past season that the Panthers were missing another forward who could take some of the burden off of their top players. Adding another forward who could score at a high rate is something that the Panthers desperately need to have next season if they are serious about being a contending team.
Because the forward market is pretty deep this year, considering that a lot of top forwards are being dangled as trade bait, and there are some really good forwards on the free agency market, the Panthers should really have no problem finding at least one solid top-six forward.
Out of the many options stands Ilya Kovalchuk. After the 2012-13 season with the New Jersey Devils, Kovalchuk decided that it would be better for his career and for his family if he returned to play in Russia. Although, even though he hasn’t played in the NHL since the 2012-13 season, Kovalchuk is a player that the Panthers should be at least intrigued by this summer.
Over the course of his career, Kovalchuk has been one of the best forwards throughout the entire NHL. During the 2012-13 campaign, he put up 31 points in 37 games, and in the 2011-12 season, he recorded 83 points in only 77 games. And, when he left to play in the KHL, he continued to dominate the competition in what many would say is the second best league in the world. In the KHL, he continued his steady scoring streak, as he almost maintained a near point-per-game stat sheet.
More from Analysis
- Florida Panthers: The Door is Open for Grigori Denisenko This Season
- 2023-24 Florida Panthers Divisional Opponent Preview: Ottawa Senators
- 2023-24 Florida Panthers Divisional Opponent Preview: Detroit Red Wings
- 2023-24 Florida Panthers Divisional Opponent Preview: Montreal Canadiens
- Florida Panthers Offseason CapFriendly Armchair-GM Trade Review
Adding Kovalchuk to the team would work for the Panthers simply because he is a natural goal scorer and an offensive machine. He could easily slide onto the top line with Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau, while producing at an incredibly high rate.
Imagine a line of Huberdeau, Barkov, and Kovalchuk? That would be a crazy nightmare for any opposing team to deal with. Even if the Cats decided to slide him onto their second line with Trocheck, he would still be putting up fantastic numbers over the course of the season.
Last year, the Panthers took a risk by bringing Evgeni Dadonov back from the KHL. Luckily for Florida, it was completely worth the risk. Dadonov had an excellent season, and proved that success in the KHL can translate to the NHL.
Just like Dadonov, Ilya has had incredible success in the KHL, and has never really struggled in the NHL either. Knowing that the risk the Panthers took on Dadonov, might actually help the Panthers’ front office of nabbing Kovalchuk and bringing him down to South Florida.
While there are definite upsides to adding Kovalchuk to the team next year, there are a couple of downsides. One of the more glaring issues is the fact that Kovalchuk is now 35-years-old. Playing in the NHL is tough enough, but getting used to the extremely quick environment that the NHL offers might not go so well for the aging forward. Signing a player who is 35, and hasn’t played in the NHL for a while, might not be the smartest move to make.
Another issue with Kovalchuk is the amount of money he would ask for. It’s very possible that Ilya could demand anywhere from $6-8 million annually. Adding a 35-year-old Kovalchuk to a contract worth $6-8 million per year might not be the smartest investment for a team that isn’t only on the verge of contending now, but also for the future.
The Panthers need to be smart with the type of contracts they give out, and can’t afford to get stuck with long-term deals with aging forwards. If Kovalchuk is demanding anywhere near those figures and for a lengthy amount, the Cats should stay far away.
It’ll be interesting to see what the Panthers do when it comes to Ilya Kovalchuk. It’s obvious that both parties are interested in possibly working together as Sunrise, Florida is a wonderful place for Kovalchuk to live with his family, and the Panthers are intrigued in potentially adding a pure goal scorer to their squad. Kovalchuk will have many suitors this offseason, and it’ll be very interesting to see if he ends up in a Panthers jersey for the start of the 2018-19 campaign.