The Montreal Canadiens signed unrestricted free-agent Ilya Kovalchuk to a one-year, two-way contract on Friday. The deal will pay Kovalchuk $700,000 if he remains in the NHL with a prorated rate of $70,000 in the AHL.
The 36-year-old scored three goals and added six assists in 17 games with the Los Angeles Kings this season. Kovalchuk’s last game with the Kings was against the Canadiens on November 9. He was waived by Los Angeles for the purpose of terminating his contract on December 16. Kovalchuk forfeited roughly $4.65M in future salary by agreeing to leave the Kings.
Hoping to Bounce Back
After a five-year stint in the KHL, Kovalchuk returned to the NHL on a three-year deal with the Kings prior to the 2018-19 season. The 2003-04 Rocket Richard Trophy winner struggled to re-adjust to life in the NHL and frequently clashed with the team’s front office and coaching staff. He ended his disappointing tenure in Los Angeles with 19 goals and 24 assists in 81 games.
While it wasn’t the high-end production the Kings were hoping for, Kovalchuk’s numbers in LA suggest he can still bring some secondary scoring to Montreal. He should see some power-play time and could also factor into the Canadiens’ top-six with first-line winger Brendan Gallagher out indefinitely with a concussion. Habs GM Marc Bergevin said Kovalchuk is still in need of a work VISA and is unlikely to play Saturday as a result.