The Washington Capitals are officially Stanley Cup Champions for the first time ever. The team celebrated non-stop and showed no signs of worry about their future. While the Capitals are enjoying their successful season, the rest of the NHL have been busy making moves to improve their roster. This week there have already been several moves and rumors. Here are the top news stories of the week.
Ilya Kovalchuk NHL Free Agency
The LA Kings, Boston Bruins, San Jose Sharks and the New York Rangers are the frontrunners for UFA left-winger, Ilya Kovalchuk. There is also a second rate of teams in the NHL market that is trying to attempt for his signature. Those teams are the Blues, Red Wings, Stars and Ducks.
The former number one overall pick has not played in the NHL since 2012. During his first stint in the NHL, he registered 417 goals and 816 points in 816 NHL games. In 2010, Kovalchuk agreed to a 15-year, $100 million contract with the Devils. This record-breaking contract would the longest in NHL history. The NHL later punished the team for cap circumvention and fined them $3 million and several draft picks. He spent three seasons with the Devils and reached the Stanley Cup Finals in 2012. During the short-lived 2012-2013 lockout season, he opted to stay in the KHL with CKA St. Petersburg. Him staying in Russia was a controversial issue across the NHL. It was surprising that he left the NHL with 12-years and $77 million remaining in the contract.
Him returning to the NHL at the age of 35 gives him the right to return as an unrestricted free agent without the Devils interfering. Kovalchuk’s recent success in Russia could help his future club contend for next year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. During his time in Russia, he managed to become a better team player and win two Gagarin Cups (league title). He eventually won a gold medal with the Olympic Athletes of Russia in the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Teams like the Sharks and Bruins could use him as a key piece to success. Both teams are in win-now mode and could use a veteran that can make an impact. Last weekend he visited the Kings and Sharks according to TSN’s Darren Dreger. The Sharks will be a reasonable destination for him if he wants to win right away. He could reunite with his former coach Peter DeBoer and add depth to the high powered offense.
Boston Bruins General Manager, Don Sweeney, announced that he plans on meeting with Kovalchuk’s party this week. Sweeney has been very open to the media about pursuing the left-winger. Sweeney said “He’s a guy who plays in your top six, helps your power play. He’s a big, strong guy (6-foot-3, 230 pounds) that can score goals,”. Sweeney admitted later that it would be really hard to keep Rick Nash and Ilya Kovalchuk due to the salary cap implications. The Bruins were eliminated by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second-round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs. The Bruins are willing to make a few moves in order to compete for next year’s Stanley Cup.
It’s no secret that Kovalchuk wants to win immediately, but there was also speculation of him joining the New York Rangers. Rangers turned into a young team with a lot of speed and salary cap. His style of play could play a big role to bring the Rangers back to the playoffs.
Whatever team Kovalchuk signs for will immediately make an impact on the roster and direction the team is heading.
Arizona Coyotes extend Oliver Ekman-Larsson
According to TSN, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and the Arizona Coyotes verbally agreed to an eigh
t-year deal worth $66 million.The skillful offensive-defensemen been a part of the organization since being s
elected sixth overall in the 2009 NHL Draft. During his time in Arizona, he became a two time All-Star and broke several franchise and NHL records.
He currently has one more year left on his 6 year, $33 million contract that he signed in 2013.Teams across the league were keeping an eye on his situation with the Coyotes. Some thought he would seek for a trade for a playoff ready club. The Swede wanted to remain loyal with the team and be a part of the rebuilding process. The club finished in the bottom of the Pacific Division with 70 points and haven’t made the playoffs since the 2011-2012 season.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson Records
|Most game-winning goals by a defenseman in a single NHL season||8 goals|
|First Swedish-born defenseman in NHL history to score more than 20 goals in a single season||23 goals|
|Fastest shorthanded goal to begin a period in NHL history||5 seconds|
|Most powerplay goals by a defenseman in Arizona Coyotes franchise history||41 goals|
The Coyotes have the fifth overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft. There is a lot of talent to choose from this draft. Re-signing Ekman-Larsson before the draft gives a clear idea of needs to be addressed for the draft.
Peter Budaj Traded Back to the LA Kings
The LA Kings acquired Goaltender Peter Budaj in exchange for winger Andy Andreoff. Budaj will be returning to his former team after his short and disappointing stint with the Lightning. The veteran goaltender time with the Lightning only lasted for 15 games, with a record of 6-4-1, a GAA of of 3.39 and a save percentage of .884. His under performance with the Lightning is opposite of what he did in 2016-2017 with the LA Kings. During the 2016-2017 season, he had a record of 27-20-3 with a career best seven shutout. He had to fill the starting role when Jonathan Quick was injured with a lower-body injury. When Quick returned, Budaj was demoted to his back-up role and was shortly traded to the Lightning. He wa
s traded with Erik Černák and a 2017 7th-round pick in exchange for 2016 All-Star goaltender Ben Bishop and a 2017 5th-round pick.
Right now Budaj is expected to be the backup goalkeeper for AHL affiliate Ontario Reign. Quick will remain starter and Jack Campbell will be backup for the Kings next year. Adding Budaj provides depth for the Kings, which helps them focus on other positions.A few more roster moves this off-season could help the Kings compete in the Western Conference.