If the Washington Capitals can’t re-sign T.J. Oshie, Ilya Kovalchuk would be the next best thing.
The Washington Capitals are looking to upgrade their roster after another second round exit. While they remain in talks with unrestricted free agent T.J. Oshie, it’s not a guarantee he gets extended. Should the Capitals lose him, replacing him will be difficult.
However, luckily, there’s a pretty good option in case this happens. New Jersey Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk has spent the last few seasons in the KHL. But now he’s allegedly ready to come back over to the NHL. If he does, the Caps would be a great fit for him should they lose Oshie.
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Kovalchuk is obviously old and not as good as he once was. But remember how great he was before leaving the NHL. From 2006 to 2013, of the 335 forwards with at least 2500 accumulated minutes at even strength, Kovalchuk ranked 60th in points per 60 minutes. This put him in the 80th percentile of NHL forwards.
In four seasons with Saint Petersburg SKA of the KHL, he put up 264 points in 245 games. But how will this translate over to the big leagues? The KHL is very good, but obviously the NHL has a much higher level of competition.
Projecting Kovalchuk’s Stats
Luckily, there’s this thing called “NHLe”. It stands for NHL equivalency. While it isn’t perfect, it attempts to project how many points a player should score. Last season, Kovalchuk put up 78 points in 60 games. Currently, the KHL has an NHLe of 0.73, according to Leafs Nation. This means Kovalchuk projected to score 56 or 57 points (56.94 to be exact) in 60 games.
However, 60 games only represents roughly 73 percent of the NHL season. If Kovalchuk plays in 82 games, doing the math (56.94 plus the product of 56.94 times 22/82), his equivalency projects him to have 72.22 points (rounded up). Again, this isn’t a perfect formula, but for comparison’s sake, Kovalchuk’s NHLe leaves him with 0.88 points per game. Meanwhile, Oshie had 0.82 points per game last season.
There are, however, several factors that must be considered when comparing the two right wings. First of all, Oshie will be 31 years old in December while Kovalchuk is currently 34. Ergo, the former is a much better long-term option than the latter. Secondly, the age difference also likely means Oshie is faster and quicker than Kovalchuk. If the Capitals want to get younger and faster, signing the Russian forward makes little sense (though you could say the same about Oshie).
Kovalchuk is a very nice backup plan if they lose their top free agent. He’s a proven producer and his defense doesn’t get talked about nearly as much as it should. However, due to his likely high salary demand, signing Oshie and Kovalchuk isn’t an option. On the Capitals, one would imagine he’d be a fit on a line with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin. Especially since Marcus Johansson, Nicklas Backstrom and Andre Burakovsky should be together.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments!