The San Jose Sharks have a bit of cap space remaining and over the next week or so, I’ll look at which low-cost free agents the Sharks could look to sign in free agency. I’m also doing this list on a guess that Joe Thornton will be back, which would eliminate the need to add a third-line center. This article will focus on Ilya Kovalchuk.
The Sharks are in desperate need of another top-six winger and while a 37-year-old Kovalchuk may not be the ideal option, he’d certainly be an upgrade to San Jose’s lineup as it stands right now. Kovalchuk’s production was actually quite strong this year, scoring 10 goals and 26 points in 46 games, a pace of 18 goals and 46 points per 82 games. Even in his first season back in 2018-19, he still averaged a pace of 21 goals and 44 points per 82. His advanced stats were strong as well and he ended the season with a corsi for percentage of 53.9 per cent.
There are also some stats that would point to solid production from Kovalchuk going forward. First, of his 26 points this year, 21 of them came at even strength. Essentially, Kovalchuk wasn’t relying on power play minutes to inflate his production and is certainly capable of producing at even strength. On top of that, he was on pace for 16 goals this year, despite his shooting percentage being just 8.7 per cent, which was the lowest of his entire career. Considering his career shooting percentage is 13.7 per cent, Kovalchuk would likely score at a higher rate next season.
Considering he signed a deal worth the league minimum after being bought out, a one-year deal worth a little over $1 million may be enough to get a deal done with Kovalchuk. It would carry virtually no risk whatsoever and could come with huge upside.
If Kovalchuk hits the market, he should be one of the top forward targets for the Sharks, based on the team's cap situation. He had very different roles with each of the three teams he played for this year but in a top-six role with the Sharks, he could be very effective at a low price.
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Here’s today’s poll question (results and discussion will be posted in a future article):
Would you be in favour of the Sharks targeting Ilya Kovalchuk in free agency?