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Islanders sign Jan Kovar, Czech center out of KHL

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He was a point-per-game player on one of the KHL’s best lines.

IIHF World Junior Championship - Czech Republic v Latvia
I can attest these make great pajamas.
Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

The New York Islanders announced a new option at center with the signing of Jan Kovar, a 28-year-old Czech who will be making the jump from the KHL.

It’s a one-year, reportedly for $2 million — so great flexibility for both parties, and a great opportunity for Kovar to prove himself in the NHL. The Islanders’ center depth took a major hit with the free agency departure of John Tavares. While Mathew Barzal can step into that role, that leaves a major gap behind him on the depth chart.

Kovar has been a point a game player for Metallurg Magnitogorsk in the KHL (286 points in 285 games), and was on a couple of playoff champion squads (with 91 points in 83 playoff games). He’s evidently represented by Agent Allan Walsh.

However, his production has dipped the last couple of seasons — that “point per game” honor is thanks to some big seasons early on in the KHL — sot hat bears watching.

A right-handed center, Kovar is a good passer and shooter, something you may have seen when he thrived for the Czechs in the last Winter Olympics, where he had five points in six games. He regularly represents the Czechs in the annual spring IIHF World Championship, too.

There were reportedly multiple NHL teams interested in him, and he was arguably the top free agent available for a jump from the KHL to NHL this summer, so score one for Lou Lamoriello.

Before hitting the KHL for the past five seasons, he thrived with the Czech league’s HC Plzen, home of the original and beautifully balanced pilsner beer you know and love, unless you’ve spent your entire adult life drowning your taste buds in whatever hops your local brewer can find because ales are so much easier to make.

(Sorry, got carried away there.)

Anyway, this is a good, low-risk signing for the Isles, and answers a key lineup question.