Ilya Kovalchuk is a fantastic sniper, a player who has put up 338 goals and 304 assists in 621 games. Standing officially at 6’2″ and 230 pounds, Kovalchuk will be one of the hottest names on the free agency market this summer. The New Jersey Devils swung a deal in early February to pick up the erstwhile face of the Atlanta Thrasher franchise and ended up having a good, but not special time in New Jersey. He led the Devils in playoff scoring, but given how the Devils got eliminated, not many are likely going to use his playoff performance as reason why he’ll command big dollars this summer.
Shortly after the playoffs, I defended the deal. It was a deal that had to be made. Now Kovalchuk has the option to test the waters for himself. He’s in the prime of his career and he’s really a special player even beyond the fact that he leads all active NHL players under 30 in goals. Based on observation, it’s noticeable that Kovalchuk’s puck handling is amazing; he’s probably the only Devil who can take on a defenseman and win a one-on-one more than just occasionally; and he can get a shot off from anywhere on the ice.
The advanced statistics interest me more, and not just because they remove confirmation and observation bias. They can go into depth into how well Kovalchuk performed. Maybe we’ll learn something beyond the narrative around Kovalchuk. Maybe it can provide a little suggestion into why Lou has begun talks with Kovalchuk’s agent, Jay Grossman, about a contract before Paul Martin and his people were contacted, as per Tom Gulitti’s article at NorthJersey.com. (Thanks to ILWT reader Bill for the heads-up via e-mail.) Maybe we’ll find something about him that we won’t particularly miss should he go elsewhere.
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