The Boston Bruins are among four apparent finalists for free agent Ilya Kovalchuk, and are the only one in the East.
The 35-year-old winger has an offer on the table from the Los Angeles Kings already, according to Darren Dreger. And Kovalchuk's camp, led by agent J.P. Barry, will continue to entertain offers by way of meetings with the San Jose Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights, in addition to the Bruins, at this weekend's NHL Draft in Dallas.
“I think we’re in a position to certainly explore [signing Kovalchuk], and he fits a need,” Sweeney said. “I know Bruce [Cassidy] spoke about it at length, you guys had asked him about it. And we did talk very specifically about our roster with him and where we see him fitting in and what he brings to the table. So we would be excited to continue to explore."
It's believed that Kovalchuk, who returns to the NHL after five years with SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL, is seeking a contract similar to the three-year, $18.75 million contract Patrick Marleau signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs last summer.
Kovalchuk, two years younger than Marleau at the time of his signing with the Leafs, would want a higher average annual value if he takes a two-year deal opposed to three-year deal, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Boston's DJ Bean.
The Bruins enter the next stage of the Kovalchuk sweeps with over $11.9 million in available cap space. But that figure is without a new contract for restricted free agent Sean Kuraly and without a backup goaltender signed for next season.
The No. 1 overall pick in 2001, Kovalchuk recorded 417 goals and 816 points in 816 career NHL games between the Atlanta Thrashers and New Jersey Devils. The 6-foot-3 winger also has 11 goals and 27 points in 32 career playoff games.