Should the Ottawa Senators snag exiled-from-the-Island Jan Kovar?
On Wednesday, the New York Islanders placed Kovar on unconditional waivers for the purpose of terminating his contract. After collecting two points in four pre-season games, he failed to make the Islanders’ regular-season roster. Consequently, Kovar was sent to their American Hockey League affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, but he failed to report. According to Arthur Staple of The Athletic, the Isles say Kovar is taking time to figure out his next move.
While Kovar looks for a new hockey home, it’s tempting to contemplate how well he might look wearing a Senators’ jersey.
The Wire Tends to Motivate
Interesting outcomes can occur on the waiver wire. Sometimes, a player can catch a jolt of energy.
A good example was when Ottawa surprised the hockey world by placing forward Zack Smith on waivers this pre-season. General manager Pierre Dorion cited the lack of production as the primary reason for this decision. Last year, Smith tallied only five goals and 19 points in 68 games.
In the second week of the new season, Smith is a point-per-game player for the Senators (1G, 3A). Sure, it’s early in the season. The Senators have only played four games. However, it is an unquestionable spike in production from Smith. It also demonstrates newfound confidence the Senators have placed in Smith this season, who also serves as an alternating assistant captain.
One Size Does Not Fit All
Can waivers actually motivate players to play better?
The answer appears to be yes when it comes to Zack Smith. However, every player is different. Where Kovar plays, if he plays, is unknown.
The situation eerily resembles the fate of Vadim Shipachyov and the Vegas Golden Knights last season. However, at this point, it is unreasonable to assume that the player-team dynamics are the same, unless one or both parties express their feelings publicly.
For many, the Islanders off-season signing of Kovar was an under-the-radar move by newly minted general manager Lou Lamoriello. Kovar does not have a large hockey profile or following in North America. He has played his entire career overseas in Europe and the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). Yet, Lamoriello and the Isles managed to attract Kovar to the NHL this year, promptly signing him to a one-year deal valued at $2 million.
In Russia, playing for Magnitorgorsk Metallurg, Kovar’s offensive ability was on showcase as he was a point-per-game player. Over the past five seasons, he has collected an impressive 286 points in 285 games, which includes 97 goals and 189 assists. At age 28, Kovar’s career is in full bloom.
Kovar’s offensive talent, age, and affordability are all reasons why he could help the Senators in their rebuilding efforts this year and beyond. He’d give head coach Guy Boucher another option on the power play and has the potential to log top-six minutes if his KHL production carries over to the NHL. Kovar also folds nicely into the Senators’ push to remake their identity via a combination of young players seasoned with vets like Smith.
Historically, Russian hockey players and Ottawa, for whatever reason, have not been a good fit. In fact, if the Senators were to pursue Kovar, and if he was to sign in Ottawa, he would be the only Russian player on the team’s roster in the NHL. Even their AHL affiliate, the Belleville Senators, are without any Russian players on their roster. Despite this, it is unfair to assume a Kovar experiment would sour like Alexei Yashin, Ilya Zubov, or Nikita Filatov.
At this point, the Kovar option could be worth exploring from Ottawa’s perspective. The Senators are rebuilding; offensively gifted teams are winning games this season; Kovar is offensively gifted player who is available, now, likely for a bargain price.
If Kovar is seeking opportunity, Ottawa could be the place. If the Senators are seeking a player like Kovar, he could be a low-risk, high-reward opportunity. Kovar may also be hungry for a second chance to prove himself. Just like Zack Smith.
Cover Photo Credit: The Canadian Press
Billy Morrison covers the Ottawa Senators and the Atlantic Division for Full Press Coverage. Follow Billy on Twitter, @BillyMorrison01