Before anything, I feel it is important to mention just how much fun watching Ilya Kovalchuk prove he can still play hockey at the highest level has been. He was a castaway from the struggling Los Angeles Kings, and the likelihood of him retiring or returning to Russia seemed stronger than him playing for any NHL team just a month ago.
But the Montreal Canadiens took a $700,000 flyer on the former elite NHL goal-scorer, and it paid off handsomely.
Eight games and as many points with the Tricolore later — four goals and four assists for a balanced performance — it seems crazy that he was so readily available. The Habs gave him an opportunity, he took it and ran. He has now gone from an afterthought to a legitimate trade deadline target for contending teams, particularly those that may need a little more firepower to go the distance in the playoffs.
But that handsome payoff came a little too late for this iteration of the Canadiens. Even 2007 Kovalchuk would have a tough time dragging this team to the postseason, so they can’t bank on his 36-year-old self doing it.