Jagr, who broke into the NHL in 1990/91, said he’s obviously not the same player he was even 10 years ago, but still feels he can play at a high level this season. His recent practice was the first time he’s been on the ice in the past six months and he admitted he still has a long way to go. Jagr said his knee didn’t bother him, but his muscles and thighs felt weak. He attributes this to his advanced age, but believes he’ll eventually get stronger and in top shape with each passing day. Time may not be on the future Hall of Famer’s side though as Kladno’s campaign faces off on September 8th and the 10-game preseason beginning on July 31st
Kovalchuk remained visible to NHL fans over the past five years as he continued to play internationally in the World Championships and Olympic Games, being named MVP of the 2018 Games and winning a gold medal. He was still considered a highly-skilled forward who could produce at a point-per game pace and led the KHL scoring parade last season. He also publicly stated that he was interested in returning to the NHL before he retired. There was a lot of interest in Kovalchuk’s services, but he decided the Kings suited him best.
Kovalchuk recently told the media he believes he has another three or four top-level seasons left in him and wanted to join a team that is ready to challenge for the Stanley Cup now rather than a few years down the road. He said the Kings fit the bill perfectly as the club has one of the best goaltenders and defence in the NHL as well as a top centre to play with in Anze Kopitar. Of course, he’ll also be suiting up with top goaltender Jonathan Quick and defenceman Drew Doughty. Kopitar enjoyed a career year of 92 points this season while Doughty broke the 60-point barrier. In addition, veteran forward Dustin Brown scored 61 points and Jeff Carter notched 22 points in 27 games.
According to Kovalchuk, the veterans on the Kings’ roster all have their names on the Stanley Cup and will help him remain productive on the ice. Los Angeles head coach John Stevens is obviously glad to be adding Kovalchuk’s offence to his lineup and believes he’ll also make a difference on their power play due to his lethal shot and passing skills. Kovalchuk shared the Rocket Richard Trophy in 2003/04 as the NHL’s top goal scorer with 41 goals, but he actually bettered that total on four occasions with seasons of 52, 42, 52 and 43 goals from 2005 to 2009. He also posted 98 points in 78 games in 2005/06 and 91 points in 79 outings in 2008/09. It’ll definitely be interesting to see how his production compares to that of Tavares over the next three seasons.
Goaltender Martin Brodeur of Montreal, Quebec definitely isn’t a surprise inductee as he’s the all-time leader in regular-season wins with 691 and shutouts at 125. He’s one of just 15 netminders who managed to record at least a dozen shutouts during a season and posted a 2.24 career goals-against average along with a save percentage of 91.9. Brodeur won three Stanley Cups with the New Jersey Devils while winning 113 postseason games and posting a 90.9 save percentage in the playoffs. He won the Jennings Trophy five times for the league’s lowest goals-against average and took the Vezina Trophy home four times for being the NHL’s best goalie. Brodeur was nominated to seven All-Star Teams overall, was one of just seven goalies to be named rookie of the year since 1967 and added two Olympic gold medals to his collection of awards.
Alexander Yakushev of Moscow, Russia was one of the best left-wingers in the world during his career and proved it while playing against Canada in the 1972 Summit Series. Yakushev starred for the Soviet Union and led the team in scoring during the eight-game event with 11 points from seven goals and four assists. He played with Moscow Spartak during the 1960s and 70s and once notched 50 goals during a 44-game season. He won a pair of Olympic gold medals as well as seven more golds at the World Championships. After hanging up his skates, Yakushev coached the Soviet national squad and Moscow Spartak and also worked as a referee.
It’s unclear how the acquisition of Tavares will affect the Leafs’ payroll situation over the next year or so as the club needs to either re-sign or trade young stars Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and/or William Nylander. And while the Leafs gained 37 goals by signing Tavares they lost 47 goals from last year’s lineup as free agent centre Tyler Bozak (11 goals) signed with the St. Louis Blues on a three-year $15 million contract and left-winger James van Riemsdyk (36 goals) signed a five-year deal, $35 million with the Philadelphia Flyers.
There was plenty of other activity on July 1st, which was the first day of free agency, and we’ll recap the biggest moves of the day.
Arizona Coyotes: Signed forward Michael Grabner from the New Jersey Devils to a three-year deal. Defenceman Niklas Hjalmarsson was re-signed for two years.
Calgary Flames: Signed centre Derek Ryan of the Carolina Hurricanes to a three-year contract and inked forward James Neal of Vegas to a five-year deal.
Chicago Blackhawks: Signed goaltender Cam Ward from Carolina to a one-year contract as well as forward Chris Kunitz of the Tampa Bay Lightning and defenceman Brandon Manning of Philadelphia.
Colorado Avalanche: Signed defenceman Ian Cole and forward Matt Calvert of the Columbus Blue Jackets to three-year contracts.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Signed defenceman Adam Clendening of Arizona to a one-year contract and centre Riley Nash of Boston to a three-year contract.
Dallas Stars: Signed defenceman Roman Polak of Toronto to a one-year contract and goaltender Anton Khudobin of Boston to a two-year contract. Forward Blake Comeau of Colorado was signed to a three-year deal.
Los Angeles Kings: Signed forward Ilya Kovalchuk of the KHL to a three-year contract.
Minnesota Wild: Signed goaltender Andrew Hammond of Colorado to a one-year deal and forward Eric Fehr of the San Jose Sharks to a year-long deal. Forward Matt Hendricks of the Winnipeg Jets also signed on for a season. Defenceman Greg Pateryn was signed from Dallas for two years.
Montreal Canadiens: Signed forward Tomas Plekanec from Toronto to a one-year contract and inked
forward Matthew Peca of Tampa Bay to a two-year contract.
New York Islanders: Signed forward Valtteri Filppula of Philadelphia to a one-year contract and forward Leo Komarov of Toronto to a four-year contract. Defenceman Thomas Hickey was re-signed to a four-year deal.
San Jose Sharks: Re-signed forward Logan Couture to an eight-year deal.