After two days of a relatively low-profile courtship of top free agent Ilya Kovalchuk, a serious dark horse has entered the mix.
Islanders general manager Garth Snow confirmed last night that the Islanders are “in” on discussions for the 27-year-old Russian sniper. It is believed that they join the New Jersey Devils and Los Angeles Kings in the Kovalchuk sweepstakes.
Snow said he made a call around 9 p.m. ET Friday to Kovalchuk’s agent to gauge what their camp may be looking for with regards to salary and term.
“I have to do my due diligence and look at all the options, it’s as simple as that,” Snow said when reached by phone late Friday. “Over the last coupe of days I’ve made maybe a hundred calls and explored options where, maybe it doesn’t come to fruition, but I’m not doing my job if I don’t make those calls.”
Since the NHL’s free agency period began Thursday afternoon, the Devils and Kings emerged as the front-runners for the star winger. Still, Snow said he felt compelled to give it a shot.
“I made one preliminary call and we’ll see where it goes,” Snow said. “I felt it was my duty to make the call to inquire.”
What it would mean to the Islanders organization to land such a coveted free agent is irrefutable.
“He’s obviously an elite player, a perennial 40-goal scorer and there is an appeal there. We’d obviously increase our offensive output,” Snow said. “He’s one of the most prolific goal-scorers over the last couple of years.”
Before this bombshell revelation that the Islanders might be poised to make such a serious splash—actually, more like a cannonball—Snow signed four players—defensemen Mark Eaton and Milan Jurcina, former Ranger winger P.A. Parenteau and tough-guy center Zenon Konopka-- to the type of modest contracts that have become his calling card.
But this was not Snow’s first aggressive pursuit as of late. Thursday, Snow said he went hard after top defensemen Paul Martin and Dan Hamhuis, and even outbid both Pittsburgh and Vancouver for those respective players.
Kovalchuk, who was traded to New Jersey from Atlanta back in February, finished the season with 41 goals and 44 assists.