By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Boston Bruins remain in the hunt to sign Ilya Kovalchuk, and they're making a legitimate push. If you ask Don Sweeney, the interest is mutual.
Speaking to reporters in Dallas ahead of the 2018 NHL Draft, the Bruins GM opened up on the team's process attempting to sign the 35-year-old Kovalchuk, an 11-time All-Star who is returning to the NHL after a five-year stint in Russia.
"We’ve spoken, have had numerous conversations with his representatives," Sweeney said. "We feel we’re a team he has strong interest in and we’re going to see where it goes."
Based on a report on Thursday by TSN's Darren Dreger, the Bruins have already made an offer to Kovalchuk. They're in the mix with the San Jose Sharks, who might be their chief competition, as well as the Los Angeles Kings and Vegas Golden Knights.
After the NHL raised the salary cap to $79.5 million, the Bruins have just under $12 million in space. They can certainly afford to offer Kovalchuk a deal in the $6 million range annually. But based on the teams in the hunt, it appears Kovalchuk may prefer to play on the west coast - meaning the B's may have to be the highest bidder to give themselves the best chance.
Sinking another $6 million AAV into another player well over 30 - in this case, a 35-year-old who's been away from the league for five years - would not come without risks. But as far as big, right-shot wingers who can score, the market is essentially barren beyond Kovalchuk and Rick Nash. Kovalchuk is one of the only possible options to add a player of his type who can play a top-six role, without making a trade.
Sweeney also indicated that Kovalchuk will take his time to make his decision. Free agency across the league begins on July 1. We'll have to sit tight until then.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].