NHL sources indicate veteran free-agent forward Alex Kovalev was interested in returning to the New York area next season and approached both the Islanders and the Rangers about that possibility. Kovalev made $4.5 million in his final season in Montreal, and the Isles likely might have considered signing him to a one-year deal for about the same money.
>>Greg Logan, On the Islanders Beat
Thank you, Garth.
It's not that Kovalev wouldn't have helped make things exciting -- he would have. It's not that he wouldn't have set up John Tavares and Kyle Okposo for all kinds of goals for make benefit glorious franchise of Islanderstan. He would have done that, too.
It's just that at every stop in his NHL career (and in the Rangers' case, twice), there has been a Kovalev Moment. Usually several of them. A moment of extended floating, disinterest or sulking where the world-class talent becomes a world-class enigma, making fans and management -- and just think for a moment how hard this is -- actually question whether a 30-goal, 75-point guy is worth having around.
That's tolerable, I guess, if that enigmatic talent is helping you make a run at something great. His rookie-year Cup (*cough, hack, bleeeargh*) and the Penguins' 2001 playoff run come to mind. Heck, even Alexei Yashin helped the Islanders to a hot start and an exciting playoff series at first. Sometimes a player's immense talent is his own worst enemy, because it creates mammoth expectations and obscures achievement.
But Kovalev has always seemed like the type who, when things aren't going well with the team, finds other priorities. Despite another productive season last year, the Canadiens even sent him home for a few-game breather. (The fact ex-Montreal scorer approached both the Rangers and Islanders makes me wonder whether he was after proximity to another fantastic city rather than proximity to a shot at the Cup.)
Considering where the Islanders are headed this season, they just don't need that possibility. Hell, they don't even have a young Russian for him to mentor like Sergei Fedorov in Washington. Don't know if GM Garth Snow seriously considered it or not, but regardless, praised be his name for passing. I know Kovalev is skilled, I know he can still bring it, but unless we're talking about a serious playoff run -- and we're not -- my Enigma Capacity just doesn't go that high.