Add the St. Louis Blues to the list of teams interested in signing Ilya Kovalchuk.
“There’s nothing planned yet on a visit but we certainly talked to his agent asking him to explore our situation and see if there’s interest,” Blue general manager Doug Armstrong said in a recent interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The Boston Bruins, Dallas Stars, Florida Panthers, San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings are just some of the teams interested in signing the free agent forward.
The 35-year-old Kovalchuk indicated in April that he wanted to return to the NHL after retiring to the KHL five years ago. The New Jersey Devils held his rights until his 35th birthday in April, which is why he is now free to choose any team he’d like.
Kovalchuk can’t sign anywhere until July 1 but he is free to talk to teams. Despite his age, he can still post big numbers on offence. Last season with SKA St. Petersburg, he had 32 goals and 65 points in 55 games.
During his time in the NHL, he had 417 goals and 816 points in 816 games.
The Blues missed the playoffs last year and scoring depth was an issue, especially after Jaden Schwartz and Robby Fabbri missed significant time with injuries. The Blues 2.72 goals per game were 24th in the league, so adding a player like Kovalchuk would give star players like Vladimir Tarasenko some support.
Armstrong said while Kovalchuk’s age is a risk, there’s no way to know what type of player he will be until he returns to the NHL.
“He’s 35 years old, there’s risk involved with players of that age,” Armstrong said. “But he could be Jaromir Jagr. He could start slowing down at 41. Or he could come back and hit the wall. You never know.
“But there’s certainly intrigue there because he’s been such a dominant player internationally and he was a helluva player when he left (the NHL).”