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Calling Kovalchuk

May 12, 2018, 11:44 AM ET [96 Comments]
Matt Henderson
Edmonton Oilers Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
When it comes to fixing the Oilers, it wont be hard to improve upon the overall poor production of the right wingers. Edmonton wasn’t particularly deep at RW before last year, but they traded Eberle and made the problem worse. Ultimately, the most prolific scorer from the starboard side was Leon Draisaitl – a man being paid a premium to be a center for about 40% of the season. After him it was painful.

As the Oiler season ended, the team finally found that the combination of RNH with McDavid freed Draisaitl to actually play center. It’s the best that this team was capable of doing given that the club lacked enough support on the wings to run the three centers down the middle. What that combination also did was rob the team of its best right winger.

The depth chart of right wingers now looks something like this:

Ty Rattie – 49 GP
Jesse Puljujarvi – 93 GP
Zack Kassian – 387 GP
Kailer Yamamoto – 9 GP

Iiro Pakarinen and Anton Slepyshev are fleeing Edmonton for the KHL. I’ve added Kailer Yamamoto to this list because right now there isn’t another player on the team or in the system who is better than him. The reality is that Kassian is a 4th liner who can play higher in a pinch, so the other three default into the top 9 ahead of him. For those keeping track, that’s a combined 151 games of NHL experience for the team’s non-Kassian right wingers.

So for that reason, it makes perfect sense that the Oilers will want to upgrade on the right side. Elliotte Friedman in his 30 thoughts suggested that the team may have attempted to get a little ambitious with their plans. This is what he said:

Sounds like Edmonton checked in on Ilya Kovalchuk. Not a bad idea, actually. But it won’t happen.


It should also be noted that Oilers employee and radio host Bob Stauffer wrote later that per his understanding the Oilers have NOT reached out to Ilya Kovalchuk.

I have nothing against Stauffer. I know that when he moved from an independent voice at the local sports radio station to being an Oilers employee, he lost a lot of credibility with certain fans. Some people still hold him to the standard they expect from a journalist, but he is essentially a member of the Oilers PR team and absolutely not a reporter. It would be folly to expect him to tell the truth all the time or even for him to share his personal opinion if it doesn’t align with what the team is trying to project.

There are two competing statements about whether the Oilers were interested and reached out to Kovalchuk, one from a respected journalist and the other from a member of the team’s PR department. I think Friedman has earned enough trust that as a member of the public we can assume that at very least this is something a high ranking Oiler official has expressed strong interest in.

Maybe nothing formal has happened yet. Maybe nothing ever will. However, regardless of how effective you think a 35 year old Ilya Kovalchuk can be compared to his younger self, there is little doubt that he would be an upgrade to the current group of Oiler right wingers. I don’t care that 30+ goals a season in the KHL doesn’t count for much in a lot of people’s eyes here in North America. Edmonton needs every bit of help it can get.

Obviously, if the Oilers haven’t approached Kovalchuk, they ought to. It’s better to be turned down than not even try. What can Edmonton offer a man like Kovalchuk whose preference may be to live in a giant metropolis like New York? Well if bustling night life is what he wants then Edmonton isn’t in the running. Edmonton can offer the chance to play with the best player in the world in a world class new arena in front of Canadian fans who will worship him. That and US dollars in a Canadian market.

Has Edmonton taken a shot at signing Kovalchuk? No clue. Should they? Absolutely.

Going into 2018-2019 depending on Rattie, Puljujarvi, and Yamamoto might be exactly what they do, but it’s going to be a high stakes gamble. None of these players – no matter how much we want them to do well – have accomplished much of anything in the NHL. Kovalchuk, even 5 years removed from his last game in the league, would be Edmonton’s best RW by a country mile. If you can add a player like that for nothing but money then you should find a way to do it.

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