Ilya Kovalchuk’s time with Montreal has come to an end as the Habs announced on Sunday night that they have traded him to Washington for their 2020 third-round pick. There are no conditions attached to the selection.
The 36-year-old joined the Canadiens in early January on a pro-rated league minimum deal and made an early impression. Injuries thrust him into a top line role to start and he made the most of it, collecting five goals and five assists in his first dozen games with the team. That quickly changed the conversation to whether or not he should be sticking around beyond this season. While there were contract talks between Marc Bergevin and J.P. Barry about an extension for the winger, it appears they weren’t able to come to an agreement.
Kovalchuk leaves Montreal with a more than respectable 13 points in 22 games and went a long way towards showing that his career isn’t over just yet when it looked like it could be the case when he was with Los Angeles, who terminated his contract in mid-December. Now, he gets the chance to go to a Stanley Cup contender in Washington (and join several countrymen in the process) which is something he had said he was looking to do before joining the Canadiens.
Meanwhile, the Habs didn’t get the second-round pick they were believed to be seeking but still add a decent pick for someone they signed for free seven weeks ago which is still a nice piece of business for GM Marc Bergevin. It also suggests that while they did gain a little bit in the standings, they’re likely to be sellers as they probably wouldn’t have done the move if they thought they still had a realistic chance.
Worth noting is that despite having such a low cap hit, the Habs were required to retain half of his cap hit. This means they have now used two of their three available salary retention slots which could come into play on Monday. Montreal is also now down to 47 contracts out of 50 and as they had 14 forwards on the active roster, they don’t necessarily have to pull someone up from Laval to take his place either. The Canadiens now have 13 picks in the upcoming draft which they will host in June.