NHL Off-Season Rumours: Ilya Kovalchuk, Paul Stastny, Phil Kessel

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It’s time for another edition of NHL off-season rumours. There will be a lot of speculation on what players may be on the move before the start of free agency on July 1. Some big names could be on the move, including Ilya Kovalchuk.

Today we talk about Kovalchuk and his tour of California, Paul Stastny’s possible return to the St. Louis Blues and the rising trade talk of Phil Kessel.

Ilya Kovalchuk

Rumour: Darren Dreger of TSN reported that the Los Angels Kings and the Russian forward met on Saturday. The same report stated that the 35-year-old forward would meet with the San Jose Sharks on Monday.

Analysis: The Kings expressed interest in Kovalchuk in 2010 before he ultimately decided to play for the New Jersey Devils. He had a great season with CSKA Moscow of the KHL with 31 goals and 32 assists to lead the league. A move to Los Angeles would bolster an offense that fizzled out late in the playoffs.

The Sharks have four forwards in Joel Ward, Joe Thornton, Eric Fehr and Jannik Hansen that are over 30 years old and heading into free agency. San Jose will have some decisions to make and adding Kovalchuk would muddy the waters.

Paul Stastny

Rumour: Stastny told Hockey Sense host Andy Strickland of 590 The Fan in St. Louis that he’d be open to coming back to St. Louis. The Winnipeg Jets acquired Stastny at the Feb. 26 trade deadline.

Analysis: The 32-year-old made a big impact in the playoffs after being injured most of the season. He scored a pair of goals in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Nashville Predators. Stastny was an integral part of Patrik Laine’s 15-game point streak at the end of the season.

He said that waiving his no-trade clause was the best decision of his career. He’ll have a hard decision on if he returns to the Blues or stays with the contending Jets.

Phil Kessel

Rumour: Josh Yohe of The Athletic reported that “all is not well in the relationship between Kessel and Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan.” The situation has gotten problematic, according to Yohe.

Analysis: Penguins’ general manager Jim Rutherford said things were “blown out of proportion” after Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic and Tim Benz of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review followed up. Kessel carries a $6.8 million cap hit until 2022. Clearing his contract off would help give Pittsburgh some breathing room, but Kessel does have a modified no-trade clause.

The American forward is a winner and would be a big addition to any offence. However, he comes at a hefty price tag.

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