I’m not sure the Rangers should be in it for Ilya Kovalchuk. I’m not sure they could possibly afford him and still have enough cap money to have 18 skaters on a given night. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t make them a contender. But I am also pretty sure he gets them into the playoffs and is young enough to still be around when some of their prospects become actual NHL players.
And I am not saying with any conviction that I think it would be the right move, at this time, for the Rangers to try to get him.
I am just throwing this out there, though, because those who don’t want Kovalchuk are painting him as some sort of loser who disappears in big games.
I think he might be better than Marian Gaborik. I think, in the NHL world where the top two players are Ovechkin and Crosby, and then there are the Datsyuks and Malkins, Kovalchuk fits right beneath them on the superstar ladder, and probably just ahead of Gaborik.
And please don’t tell me that Gaborik distinguished himself in big games last year, though there were only, what, six of them all year?
This isn’t knocking Gaborik. I think the Rangers got exactly what they paid for last season. He played most of the year healthy, he scored his 42, he carried the offense … sometimes literally.
But I think Kovalchuk is probably the better player. Gaborik is a faster skater. Kovalchuk is a bigger, tougher guy to defend, and he plays better on the other side of the blue line, and with more of a snarl.
In his eight seasons, the more durable Kovalchuk has scored 29, 38, 41, 52, 42, 52, 43, 41 goals, and as many as 91 and 98 points.
In his nine seasons, Gaborik has scored more than 38 goals twice. Most of that has been due to his health. Some of that was the suffocating system under which he played in Minnesota.
Again, I’m not knocking Gaborik at all. Not a bit. He was worth what the Rangers paid him last year, and he’s in his prime, too.
I just think Kovalchuk might be a better player. Kovalchuk also scored 27 PPGs one year for the Thrashers. Where do you think the Rangers would have finished last season with a 20-PPG guy?
One thing I know: The Rangers are going to struggle again this season to score more than one or two goals on any given night. Maybe struggle more than last year.
EVENING UPDATE, 7:07 P.M.: According to Andrew Gross, RFA Dan Girardi has filed for salary arbitration. Last year, Nick Zherdev went to arbitration and the Rangers walked away from his award, making him an unrestricted free agent. I don’t think there’s any way that happens with Girardi.