Why the Kovalchuk Signing could be a Mistake for the Kings
By Patrick Hoffman
When Ilya Kovlachuk first burst onto the NHL scene, he was a can't miss superstar and was an absolute stud on the ice.
He could put the puck in the net with ease, blow by defenders with tremendous speed, fire lasers past opposing goaltenders, and create offense every time he was on the ice. With the way he started, he had the makings of a future hall of famer.
After the 2012-13 season, Ilya left the NHL to go play in Russia the KHL. For the most part, he was forgotten about quickly by both the league and its fans. Sure, hockey fans may have missed his highlight-reel goals or ability to produce no matter what team he was playing on, but we all moved on to bigger and better things.
Don't look now, but the 35-year-old Russian is back in the show with the Los Angeles Kings after signing a 3-year deal worth $18.5 million with the club. I hate to criticize teams when I have no idea how to make trades or sign players, but to me at least, this seems like a dangerous contract and one that could end up coming back to bite the Kings in the ass.
For starters, the dude is getting old. Sure, when he last played in the NHL, he did not miss many games and when playing in the KHL, he only had to play in 60 games plus the playoffs, so that may have helped him a bit.
With that said, 35 is 35. Yeah, 35 may be considered young these days, but when it comes to professional sports, that's old. Let's face it - he may be back in the league, but he's already played a few holes deep on the back nine of his career.
Secondly, how will he play in today's NHL? He's been overseas since the 2012-13 season and since then, teams have gotten a lot faster, goalies have gotten better, and players have come into the league much bigger than they used to.
Speaking of the league changing since he last played, it is easy to see that the sport is a young man's game now. Younger players are coming into the league with more hockey knowledge, better adaptation skills, and bigger body frames that are made to withstand the physicality that is especially prevalent in today's game.
Lastly, will Kovalchuk's body be able to withstand a grueling 82-game season? Will he be able to deal with all the travelling that goes along with playing on a Western Conference team?
These are valid questions and with Kovalchuk getting up their in age NHL-wise, the answers to these might end up hurting the Kings in the long run.
Patrick currently covers the NHL here as well as for WTP Sports.
Has previously covered the NHL for Sportsnet.ca, Kukla’s Korner, Spector’s Hockey, About.com, NHL Network Radio blog, TheHockeyNews.com, The Fourth Period, Stan Fischler’s “The Fischler Report”, as well as a slew of others.