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Where Do you Stand on the Kovalchuk Debate?

January 20, 2020, 7:19 PM ET [434 Comments]
Karine Hains
Montreal Canadiens Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
There's no denying that the Kovalchuk signing could not have turned out better for Marc Bergevin. His new first line winger has 8 points in 8 games, he's fast becoming a fan favourite and he fits like a fish in water with the team. When he was signed, most everyone said that if things went well, he could be flipped for an asset at the deadline since the Habs were going to be sellers. Fast forward 2 and a half weeks and after the Habs won 4 of their last 5 games, the most optimistic fans are back in force saying that the Canadiens could make the playoffs and that everything is possible. At the same time, a good portion of the media is also arguing for Kovalchuk to be given a contract extension.

It's nothing new but man can the Habs fans be bipolar... it's almost hard to keep track of the mood swings of this fanbase. To me, the Kovalchuk signing is just a welcome distraction in an already lost season. The very thought of giving an aging forward a contract extension based on his performance during the last 8 games just appears ludicrous right now and here's why...

Yes, there is no doubt that Kovalchuk has exceeded expectations so far but he has done so playing on the first line. Once everyone is back from injury and Kovy has played say 15 games and is starting to feel tired, there's no way to know if he'll keep producing at the same rate. I mean who's to say he'll get as much quality ice-time? Will he remain on the first line once Gallagher is back if his production falls? I don't see Julien taking him off the top line for now but it could happen and then, I'll be interested to see how he handles it and himself. Will he still be a top team guy or will he be tempted to sulk?

Secondly, when he came back from the KHL, Kovalchuk made it clear that he was coming back to try and win the Stanley Cup. He wanted to play for a contender. Signing with LA backfired since the Kings' window of opportunity has shut but things went from bad to worst when he was bought out and no one wanted to sign him. What the Canadiens gave him was one last chance to show what he (still)'s got and he is using it. The man is motivated to show that he can still help a team and believe me, every team is watching. Amongst those watching are teams that are comfortably installed in playoff berth and that are trying to get that little extra "zing" that will give them the edge and allow them to win it all. If they want to win bad enough, chances are they will be calling Marc Bergevin to make an offer and to try to pry the Russian away from his hands. If he says no and is then unable to sign the forward this summer, he will have lost him for nothing...remember the last time a fan favourite walked away in free agency? Yeah, I bet Bergevin remembers as well.

Finally, this team has been pushing this "the future is bright" narrative since the draft last summer. If the future is so bright, do you really need to sign a 36 year old instead of playing your young players? Don't get me wrong, I truly enjoy watching Kovalchuk play but surely he cannot be the way forward for this team. And if he is and truly is enjoying himself so much in Montreal, there's nothing stopping Bergevin from trading him at the deadline to a contender and attempting to sign him again this summer, much like he did when he brought Tomas Plekanec back.

I know, this take will not be the most popular but to me, keeping Kovalchuk just wouldn't make sense no matter how much we've all been enjoying the Kovalshow. Besides, while he signed for a mere $700 000 this season, the price tag of an extension would be much higher and personally, I'd rather keep that extra money to sign Tatar or Domi to an extension. They are much younger and have both been playing with this team for more than 8 games. Yes, I know, Domi can take dumb penalties but I still believe he can learn to keep that in check much like Gallagher did. As for Tatar, he is the team's top scorer right now and has been a mainstay on the Habs first line for the last two seasons. I'd also add that Kovy wasn't such a team guy when he elected to bolt for the KHL leaving the New Jersey Devils in the lurch financially so how do you trust is not just looking out for himself right now? Not that I would blame him if he was anyways...

So, where do you stand on the Kovalchuk debate?
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