Monday, July 6, 2009

Kovalev Shocker

This signing really caught me by surprise.

Of all the free agents this off-season, Alexei Kovalev would have been near the bottom of the list of players I expected to sign in Ottawa.

Yet, it's strangely brilliant.

As has been widely reported, fans of the Habs had just completed a "protest" outside the Bell Centre in Montreal to try and force Bob Gainey to resign the skilled Russian.

Now Murray has what will surely be a motivated player in the lineup to terrorize Carey Price and his band of merry midgets for at least 6 games in the regular season.

But what does it all mean?

Is this a sign that a Dany Heatley trade is imminent? Does this mean that Murray is going to take less for Heatley?

I'm not a capologist but this signing puts Ottawa over the 56.8 million cap.

Kovalev will eat up 5 million per year for the next two seasons in both actual paid salary and in cap space.

According to, the Senators cap number is now at roughly $57,545,833. To get that number I subtracted the listed salaries of Cody Bass, Ilya Zubov and James OBrien, three players who will have a hard time making this team.

But that also doesn't include Brian Elliott who needs a new contract and the possibility of Erik Karlsson making the team (in which event one of the 7 current defenseman would be out of a roster spot, eliminating their respective salary).

If Murray could somehow convince Heatley to reverse his trade request and make peace with Cory Clouston, Ottawa will have plenty of firepower to rack up huge offensive numbers.

Even without Heatley, you could probably pencil in Kovalev beside Jason Spezza and that would still be a formidable line on any team.

If you were to pick someone who has almost as good a shot as Heatley, you'd have to put Kovalev into the argument. While Heatley is all power, Kovalev is pure finesse and can put pucks into corners or through goalie's legs before they've even realized he's about to shoot.

But there's a downside too. Kovalev has an unfair reputation as a guy who is streaky and sometimes disinterested. People seem to think that because he has such great skill, he's not allowed to have off games like other players do.

And if there's anything we've learned about Ottawa fans, they are greatly distrusting of skilled, superstar players. They won't find much to like about Kovalev unless he and Spezza really find some chemistry right away. If not, both will have huge targets on their backs to join the likes of Chris Neil, Chris Kelly and whoever else the fans decide they've had enough of.

But this is a good day for Murray. No matter what happens with the Heatley saga, he has ensured that he is not wasting the supreme passing talents of Spezza.

To have a visionary on the ice like number 19 without someone to one-time his passes is like having a nice car with no wheels.

Heatley or no Heatley, Ottawa will still be able to score goals.


Anonymous said...

I agree with you Jeremy about Kovalev. Especially about Ottawa fan fickleness. I think it is a great signing myself. UFA's almost always cost more, simply because there is a bidding for the player's services, and Kovy is no different. Mutliple teams were in play.

I have a feeling now that Heatley might reconsider, and come back and make amends.

I am not offended about Heatley. Hockey is a business after all. People may balk about his ethics or is player's agents ethics, but he is allowed to have a say in where he plays. I am not saying it doesn't leave a sour taste in my mouth.

Having said that though, Spezza Heatley, Alfie AND Kovalev is a dominant 4some.

Ottawa's backend is only getting stronger via prospects, but I still think they need a #1 stud on the backend for the next season or two. But if Karlsson makes the team in Sept., watch out! Offensive D setting up Heatley, and Kovalev.

Exciting prospect from a purely objective hockey point of view!


Anonymous said...

I've got mixed feelings about the signing. I love the skill and the potential. But, the cap number bugs me.

If Heatley comes back, I like the deal better because Kovy won't be counted on to be the main trigger man.

I've read some blog comments about people saying that Clouston's approach will motivate this guy.

Newsflash: No one motivates Kovalev. Kovalev is supremely talented, and he knows it. He plays, when he wants to play. If you over-manage him, he will tune you out.

I hope Clouston shows the wisdom to just leave him alone. Put Kovalev in a situation to succeed, and then get out of his way.