The Athletic’s Craig Custance penned a lengthy article about Ilya Kovalchuk’s attempt to find the right fit as he returns to the NHL at 35, and Custance addressed the Red Wings’ interest in Kovalchuk:
The Red Wings are rebuilding but management wants to do it in a way where the young players feel like they have a shot to win on any given night. The organization still wants Detroit to be a place where players still enjoy coming to the rink on a daily basis. Bottoming out completely typically doesn’t create that kind of environment. There’s also a new building in Detroit that was half empty at times in year one and would get some needed juice with a player like Kovalchuk.
But really, it only makes sense on a one-year deal that can be spun at the trade deadline. In fact, that’s a great idea if you’re Detroit. It’s almost like buying draft picks and prospects in free agency. But if that’s the case, why would Kovalchuk do it?
It’s a longshot but the best pitch would have to be a one-year deal on a huge salary that also gives Kovalchuk complete control of where he goes at the trade deadline, with Detroit retaining some of the cost. Going that route would, in theory, buy Kovalchuk time to see which of the contending teams offer him the best chance to win. Again, that’s just a working theory.
Custance continues at length (paywall), suggesting that Kovalchuk would rather be on a team with more stable playoff footing.
Update: The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan mentioned the Wings’ interest in Kovalchuk as well:
The Wings’ interest in Kovalchuk is understandable in the fact the team lost a staggering 27 one-goal games last season, and ranked 24th on the power play (17.5 percent).
Adding a goal-scorer such as Kovalchuk, who still possesses one of the hardest and most accurate shots in the world, would likely help the Wings offensively.
But the Wings are admittedly in a rebuild, and are trying to add young players into the lineup.
Signing a player such as Kovalchuk could take ice time away from prospects such as Michael Rasmussen, Evgeny Svechnikov or Tyler Bertuzzi.
Kovalchuk has yet to win a Stanley Cup, and is reportedly looking for a team close to winning, as well as a two- or three-year contract at around $6 million per season.
The Wings would likely be more interested in a one- or two-year deal, which might not interest Kovalchuk, who can’t officially sign a contract until July 1.