The Case For Ilya Kovalchuk To Join The Rangers
Before I begin this post, I just want to clarify that I am not on any mind altering medication (do Asthma meds count?) and have been told that I still have my wits about me and that I am not clinically insane. Why do I say this?
Well, it seems to be an unpopular opinion, but I think this could benefit the Rangers in the short term. I think the Rangers should take a shot at signing Ilya Kovalchuk this summer!
“HOW DARE YOU SUGGEST THE RANGERS SIGN SOMEONE OLDER?”
“DONT YOU KNOW THIS IS #TANKSZN”
Woah. Okay, let’s take a step back here and look at how the Rangers signing Kovalchuk could benefit this team.
When was the last time the Rangers had someone who could fire the puck with absolute power and will? Gaborik? Jagr? The closest I can think of in the last few years outside of those two is Mika Zibanejad, who is nicely coming into his own.
One of the things the Rangers have been missing over the years is a sniper. Add a pure sniper to any of the 2011-2014 teams and the Rangers chances of winning a cup would have gone up substantially. Rick Nash was supposed to be that guy, but instead, turned into a reliable, two-way player instead of a pure sniper.
Kovalchuk, even as he inches closer to the age of 35, can still fire the puck with authority. If you look at teams like the Capitals or Lightning, they have at least one guy who can fire the puck, in this case, I’m talking about Ovechkin and Stamkos. Now, I’m not comparing Kovalchuk to a Stamkos or Ovechkin but they shoot and help their teams substantially when needed.
Now, I’m not comparing a current Kovalchuk to a Stamkos or Ovechkin, that’s absurd. But one of the things the Rangers have lacked over the last few months, and even throughout this season, is shots on goal. Whenever the Rangers put a ton of shots on goal in a game, they win. More shots on goal equal more chances which can equate to more goals. Even at his age, Ilya Kovalchuk can still do that and the Rangers would be wise to bring him aboard.
As a kid, Ilya Kovalchuk was my favorite player to watch in his early days as a Thrasher and it killed me when he was traded to New Jersey. It seems like yesterday that I was watching highlights of him go bar down on goalies and power his way to goals. Hard to believe that was almost ten plus years ago.
Kovalchuk is 34 years old. He’s played in 816 NHL games, played in 245 KHL games, has combined 524 goals in both leagues, as well as being a 3x Gold Medalist (2018 Winter Olympics, 2008 and 2009 IIHF World Championships), a 3x NHL and KHL All-Star, 2x Gagarin Cup winner in the KHL as well as numerous other accolades in both leagues. Clearly, he knows what he is doing and this type of experience can benefit a lot of the young guys that are coming into a very young locker room.
Although some may bring up his attitude from previous seasons with New Jersey, I doubt any of this would come into play, especially since it’s known he has a hunger to play in the NHL, and preferably for the Rangers, again. Players like Pavel Buchnevich, Vladislav Namestnikov, Filip Chytil, Lias Andersson and potentially Yegor Rykov if he comes over this summer along with other Ranger youth could learn from someone like him, who has an obvious track record in the NHL, as well as knowing how to deal with certain things throughout a long regular season.
THE GUY CAN STILL PLAY
Русская машина никогда не ломается, мы выигрываем хоккейное золото для родины! (Russian machine never breaks, we win hockey gold for homeland).
That was probably going through Kovalchuk’s mind and many of the Russian….excuse me, Olympic Athletes from Russia when they won the Gold over Germany in OT at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
Maybe it’s not exactly what they were thinking, but if there’s one thing that was evident, it was that Ilya Kovalchuk made a difference. He was all over the ice for the Russians; and although it may seem like he lost a step or two, he still seems very active and incredibly engaged in the play. From watching his highlights in the KHL, it still looks like he possesses that blinding speed that worked so well for him in the NHL. 107 goals in 3+ seasons while being an older player is still pretty impressive for someone who is aging. Below are just some of his recent highlights. Not bad for an older guy.
The Rangers are a budding young team with a ton of potential, skill, and size. Kovalchuk, although being older, has a lot of these qualities still in his arsenal. He plays the game with speed and skill along with his size. The man can still shoot and hold the puck like he used to and can bring a veteran presence to this team to help solidify the rebuild.
We can sit here and talk finances, but I don’t think it’ll take much for the Rangers to land Kovalchuk. He has publicly stated his desire to want to play on Broadway and if he signs to a team friendly deal for a season or two, how can one possibly think this is a bad idea? Kovalchuk now is not the same Kovalchuk of yesteryear with the Thrashers. But Kovalchuk now still carries a ton of skill that can help bridge the gap for any younger players, mentor his fellow countrymen on life in the NHL, and bring a developed skill set this team hasn’t seen in a few years.
Editor’s Note: No Devils photos were provided in this article.