LAS VEGAS — Bruce Cassidy was in Las Vegas this week because his Boston Bruins went 50-20-12 for 112 points, a performance that earned him a Jack Adams nomination for coach of the year. But after a second-round playoff exit, Cassidy has been thinking about how his Bruins could be even better next season, and those thoughts have included superstar free-agent winger Ilya Kovalchuk.
“That would be interesting. You never want to speculate, but he would be a nice fit. A top-six guy. He can score. He’s a big body. It would be a nice addition. He’s going to make your team better. And he would sure make us better,” Cassidy said on Tuesday.
Kovalchuk, 35, is an unrestricted free agent after spending the past five seasons playing for St. Petersburg SKA in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League. He has 417 goals and 399 assists in 816 NHL games, but hasn’t played in the league since 2013 with the New Jersey Devils. This hasn’t stopped teams from courting him, and the Bruins were expected to make their bid.
Cassidy said he wasn’t sure where GM Don Sweeney was in the process of going after Kovalchuk, and said he wasn’t yet consulted on whether he needed to be part of that sales pitch to the star winger.
What he has done, admittedly, is figure out where Kovalchuk could potentially fit on his team, including whether he could supplant top-line right wing David Pastrnak with stars Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand; or, perhaps, move to the second line, which is in need of a left wing after the Rick Nash experiment didn’t produce results last season.
“There’s a hole right now with David Krejci and [Jake] DeBrusk. I know we’re trying to fill that in-house. But is there someone out there that can make it work?” asked Cassidy, rhetorically. “If it’s Kovalchuk, he’d probably go on Bergeron’s right side or Krejci’s right side. That’s the simple thing that comes to mind.”
There are plenty of options if Kovalchuk opts for Boston.
Clearly, a coach can dream.