For weeks now we have been eagerly anticipating the return of former National Hockey League superstar Ilya Kovalchuk and although we now know that he has already met with a number of teams within the National Hockey League none of those teams have yet announced that they have come to terms on a new deal with Kovalchuk.
As a result the Russian forward remains an unrestricted free agent at this time and although he may have preferred to already have a deal in place in order to guarantee his return to North America, it may be in his best interest that he has yet to come to an agreement on a new contract. On Wednesday TSN insider Darren Dreger revealed during a panel discussion that Kovalchuk's decision not to sign as of yet may have been impacted by other potential free agents around the league.
Dreger believes that Kovalchuk may be waiting to see what happens with New York Islanders superstar center John Tavares before committing to a decision, a strategy that would likely result in him garnering even more interest from the teams that failed to lure the Islanders captain to their organization.
"Because of the uncertainty around John Tavares it might be advantageous for Kovalchuk... to just sit back and see and maybe he becomes a real good option B for those teams," said Dreger during the segment.
It makes a great deal of sense, teams that will miss on Tavares will likely have a large amount of cap space allocated for any potential signing that could have happened, and those teams will likely be desperate to find another avenue in which to add a talented forward to their line up. Kovalchuk will likely be not only the most obvious choice but will arguably one of the more talented options for National Hockey League teams that failed to get Tavares.
That being said though it may not be a total free for all on Kovalchuk at the end of the day, according to Dreger there are four teams who are currently the favorites to acquire the former Kontinental Hockey League star. Those four teams are the Boston Bruins, the Las Angeles Kings, the San Jose Sharks and the Las Vegas Golden Knights. We know for certain that Kovalchuk met with the Kings, Sharks and Bruins over the course of the past few weeks and as a result we would assume that makes them the heavy favorites, although the Golden Knights have to be an interesting option given the run of success they had this season.
It's very interesting to see the way this story has developed slowly over time in the past several weeks. Initially it appeared that Kovalchuk's status as an early unrestricted free agent due to the fact that he played his most recent season in the KHL would have resulted in him being one of the first, if not the very first, signings of the NHL offseason. It seems like that may have been the plan from Kovalchuk's camp as well but perhaps now they feel they have found a way to get additional leverage and as a result generate additional dollars for their client on his next NHL contract.