BOSTON (CBS) — Not much is expected in terms of fireworks for the Boston Bruins this weekend in the NHL Draft. They don’t own a pick until the end of the second round — No. 57 overall — because they gave up their first-round pick to the Rangers in order to acquire Rick Nash earlier this season. It’s unlikely and improbable that the Bruins would be able to move up to get any of the top-rated prospects.
But in keeping with a similar theme of that Nash acquisition, the Bruins have made it clear that they’re interested in acquiring a veteran forward who knows how to score. Very interested.
Just two days after head coach Bruce Cassidy spoke openly about how soon-to-be-free-agent forward Ilya Kovalchuk could help his lineup, general manager Don Sweeney publicly made the case for the veteran winger to choose the Bruins.
“We’ve spoken to their camp. We did not meet in person, but we’ve spoken and have had numerous conversations with the representatives as to where they’re at,” Sweeney said Thursday in Dallas. “We feel we’re a team he has strong interest in, and we’re going to see where it goes between now and however long he takes to make a decision.”
Sweeney specified that adding Kovalchuk wouldn’t just be a luxury but would fill a need.
“I think we’re in a position to certainly explore that, and he fits a need,” Sweeney said. “I know Bruce 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. I don’t know necessarily where it goes.”
Sweeney recognized that Kovalchuk spending the last five years in the KHL instead of the NHL can’t be overlooked, but he expressed confidence that Kovalchuk would be able to reacclimate quickly.
“The scoring potential, the size and strength — you know, again, it’s five years removed from the NHL. A lot has changed, if you think about the last five years and what’s transpired in that league. But I think he’ll be fine,” Sweeney said. “He’s played on big stages and been very successful. Unique talent and fits in to probably a slot that we could utilize — or, hopefully utilize, if it comes to fruition.”
On Tuesday, Cassidy sang a similar tune.
“That would be interesting,” Cassidy said of a potential Kovalchuk signing, per ESPN. “You never want to speculate, but he would be a nice fit. A top-six guy. He can score. He’s a big body. It would be a nice addition. He’s going to make your team better. And he would sure make us better.”
Cassidy went so far as to envision what his lines might look like with Kovalchuk in the mix.
“There’s a hole right now with David Krejci and [Jake] DeBrusk. I know we’re trying to fill that in-house,” Cassidy said. “But is there someone out there that can make it work? If it’s Kovalchuk, he’d probably go on [Patrice] Bergeron’s right side or Krejci’s right side. That’s the simple thing that comes to mind.”
The Bruins acquired Nash in March, and a concussion limited him to playing just 11 games, scoring three goals and registering three assists in that time. In 12 postseason games, he registered 3-2-5 totals.
Kovalchuk, who turned 35 in April, hasn’t played in the NHL since the 2013 season, spending his last five seasons playing for St. Petersburg in the KHL. In the last two seasons, he’s scored 63 goals and added 78 assists in 113 regular-season games, while posting 12-7-19 totals in 33 playoff games. In his last NHL season, he scored just 11 goals in 37 games, but he’s scored 417 goals in his NHL career, which ranks him 81st all time, despite the five seasons spent in Russia.
The Bruins were listed early in the Kovalchuk sweepstakes as a team showing interest, and Darren Dreger reported Thursday that the Bruins are one of a small handful of teams that may still land the player. Kovalchuk’s agent will reportedly meet Friday with the four teams that are still in the running.