Monday, July 6, 2009
This signing really caught me by surprise.
Of all the free agents this off-season, Alexei Kovalev would have been near the bottom of the list of players I expected to sign in Ottawa.
Yet, it's strangely brilliant.
As has been widely reported, fans of the Habs had just completed a "protest" outside the Bell Centre in Montreal to try and force Bob Gainey to resign the skilled Russian.
Now Murray has what will surely be a motivated player in the lineup to terrorize Carey Price and his band of merry midgets for at least 6 games in the regular season.
But what does it all mean?
Is this a sign that a Dany Heatley trade is imminent? Does this mean that Murray is going to take less for Heatley?
I'm not a capologist but this signing puts Ottawa over the 56.8 million cap.
Kovalev will eat up 5 million per year for the next two seasons in both actual paid salary and in cap space.
According to NHLSCAP.com, the Senators cap number is now at roughly $57,545,833. To get that number I subtracted the listed salaries of Cody Bass, Ilya Zubov and James OBrien, three players who will have a hard time making this team.
But that also doesn't include Brian Elliott who needs a new contract and the possibility of Erik Karlsson making the team (in which event one of the 7 current defenseman would be out of a roster spot, eliminating their respective salary).
If Murray could somehow convince Heatley to reverse his trade request and make peace with Cory Clouston, Ottawa will have plenty of firepower to rack up huge offensive numbers.
Even without Heatley, you could probably pencil in Kovalev beside Jason Spezza and that would still be a formidable line on any team.
If you were to pick someone who has almost as good a shot as Heatley, you'd have to put Kovalev into the argument. While Heatley is all power, Kovalev is pure finesse and can put pucks into corners or through goalie's legs before they've even realized he's about to shoot.
But there's a downside too. Kovalev has an unfair reputation as a guy who is streaky and sometimes disinterested. People seem to think that because he has such great skill, he's not allowed to have off games like other players do.
And if there's anything we've learned about Ottawa fans, they are greatly distrusting of skilled, superstar players. They won't find much to like about Kovalev unless he and Spezza really find some chemistry right away. If not, both will have huge targets on their backs to join the likes of Chris Neil, Chris Kelly and whoever else the fans decide they've had enough of.
But this is a good day for Murray. No matter what happens with the Heatley saga, he has ensured that he is not wasting the supreme passing talents of Spezza.
To have a visionary on the ice like number 19 without someone to one-time his passes is like having a nice car with no wheels.
Heatley or no Heatley, Ottawa will still be able to score goals.