Contradicting reports that he agreed to terms with the New York Rangers, Ilya Kovalchuk has said that he hasn’t spoken to any NHL teams.
There had been rumors that former New Jersey Devils winger Ilya Kovalchuk agreed to terms with the New York Rangers. He has played in Russia after leaving the Devils in 2013, retiring from the NHL before signing with SKA St. Petersburgh of the KHL, where he was a teammate of Rangers prospect Igor Shestyorkin.
However, according to Andrey Karnaukhov of Sports.RU, he has not agreed to terms, and has in fact not even begun the free agent process. Kovalchuk told Karnaukhov that:
“I got a lot of friends called. Ask, congratulate. I answer: that’s how the press in Russia works great, that I have already signed the contract, and the number of years, and the team found … In fact, I have not had any talks with anyone else.”
While some, such as ESNY’s Frank Curto, feel that the Rangers should add the Russian winger to help the Rangers along with their rebuild, there is a very good argument to be made that the team is better off staying away from a player who turns 35 on April 15, and hasn’t played in the NHL in five years.
Cap space may also become an issue. The team currently has slightly under $50 million in cap space committed to their roster, while Sports Illustrated reports that the salary cap is expected to be around $80 million.
While $30 million seems like a lot of space, it gets complicated when looking at the Rangers free agency situation. Jimmy Vesey, Ryan Spooner, Vladislav Namestnikov, Kevin Hayes, and Brady Skjei are all in line to be RFAs at the end of the season.
While not all of them are players that must be kept, it makes more sense to put money towards younger players the team has already invested in, especially as the team is currently in a rebuild.
The Rangers need to avoid the temptation of bringing in a big name who is past his prime. Let the kids grow and develop together.