Canucks 2020 free agent targets: Forward Ilya Kovalchuk

The Vancouver Canucks could look to bolster their scoring depth in the offseason. Here’s why they should consider signing Ilya Kovalchuk.

With limited salary cap space, Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning has to get creative in retaining his key free agents this offseason.

Ideally, Benning would find a way to unload some expensive veteran contracts. If he can’t move out around $8 to $10 million in cap space, then it’s impossible to envision him retaining all three of Troy Stecher, Chris Tanev and Jacob Markstrom. Jake Virtanen and Adam Gaudette require new contracts, too.

Tyler Toffoli has been a superb addition for the Canucks, but Vancouver most certainly won’t be able to retain him, which I previously explained here. Still, Benning could look to add a little more offence in his top-nine, but with limited cap space, he’ll likely have to do some bargain shopping.

That brings us to Washington Capitals forward Ilya Kovalchuk, who’s slated to enter free agency this offseason.

Kovalchuk was let go by the Los Angeles Kings after posting a mere three goals and only nine points in 17 games. The Montreal Canadiens picked him up, and the veteran sniper enjoyed a career resurgence immediately.

The 37-year-old posted six goals and 13 points in 22 games for Montreal before getting traded to the Washington Capitals. He had four points in seven games there before the season was shut down, but Kovalchuk certainly did enough in Montreal and Washington to enhance his free agent value.

And he’s worth taking a chance on.

Assuming the Canucks don’t retain Toffoli, there will be a void to fill in the top-nine. Kovalchuk could do wonders on a line with Bo Horvat, or he could add some extra juice to the third line, anchored by Gaudette.

Kovalchuk isn’t the same superstar 30/40 goal man anymore, but as he proved with Montreal and Washington, there is some 20-goal form left. His experience and leadership would be valuable for a Vancouver team that’s looking to take that next step in 2021.

The former All-Star shouldn’t cost too much in free agency, either. Kovalchuk provides several intangibles, and at this stage of his career, he’ll want a team that can use him accordingly. Head coach Travis Green would have no issue finding a suitable role for him.

Add it all up, and Kovalchuk would be a worthwhile addition for the Canucks in free agency, should Benning decide to add some more offence.