Canadiens trade Ilya Kovalchuk to Capitals for third-round pick

In Washington, it’s now Ovi and Kovy. Ilya Kovalchuk is heading to D.C. to join Alex Ovechkin and form a Russian power duo after being traded on Sunday night.

The Capitals acquired Kovalchuk in a deal with the Montreal Canadiens, sending a third-round pick to Montreal in exchange for the veteran winger. The Habs will also retain 50 percent of Kovalchuk’s $700,000 cap hit in the deal.

It’s an interesting deal for both sides. Washington gets a nice offensive piece at relatively low cost as it looks to add reinforcements for a playoff run this spring. Kovalchuk gets to join his good pal and fellow countryman Ovechkin on a Russian-heavy Caps team, and it’ll be intriguing to see how Washington utilizes Kovy in its scheme. The Caps’ offense ranks fifth in the league and their power play ranks 15th.

Meanwhile, Montreal lands a decent pick for Kovalchuk after signing him as a free agent in early January. 

It’s been an interesting journey for Kovalchuk since he returned to the NHL in 2018. His tenure with the Kings was largely a disaster and he eventually had his contract terminated by Los Angeles earlier this season. He signed in Montreal on a league-minimum deal on Jan. 3 and became a feel-good story in what has been a lost season for the Canadiens.

Kovalchuk, 36, rediscovered his offensive spark with the Habs and scored six goals and tallied 13 points in 22 games. He’ll have a chance to build on that momentum as he joins a talented Caps team that holds a two-point lead over the Penguins atop the Metropolitan Division. 

With Montreal essentially giving up on this season, it parlays Kovalchuk’s recent turnaround into some value as it looks to retool for the future. The Canadiens now own 13 picks in the 2020 draft, including six selections in the first three rounds. 

It’s worth noting that not only is Kovalchuk about to join his third NHL club this season, but he’s also counting against the cap for four teams this season (Devils, Kings, Canadiens and Capitals). 

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