Report: Bruins tried to trade for Kovalchuk after not signing him

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Why sign a 36-year-old former Russian sniper who’s down on his luck for a league-minimum contract when he’s a free agent when you can try to trade a third-round draft pick for him a month later?

That’s a questions Bruins general manager Don Sweeney will probably have to answer Monday after it was revealed Boston pursued a trade with Montreal for Ilya Kovalchuk, who instead was traded to Washington on Sunday for a third-round draft pick.

Igor Eronko or Sport-Express in Russia tweeted Monday that, according to agent J.P. Barry, Kovalchuk had a choice between the Capitals and Bruins and chose Washington.

J.P. Barry told @sportexpress Ilya Kovalchuk had a choice of 2 teams. And he chose the #ALLCAPS over the #NHLBruins

— Igor Eronko (@IgorEronko) February 24, 2020

Kovalchuk, who had his contract terminated with Los Angeles on Dec. 16, 2019, was on the open market for weeks. After there was speculation no one, not even the Bruins (who had pursued him as an unrestricted free agent in June 2018 before being outbid by the Kings), interested, he signed a one-year, two-way contract for $700,000.

There was no risk involved financially, but one could understand the Bruins not wanting to add a personality like Kovalchuk’s into their dressing room or have him block playing time from younger players.

Kovalchuk started out hot with the Canadiens but had just one assist in his last seven games for Montreal before the trade. He had six goals and seven assists in 22 Montreal games.

What the Bruins suddenly saw in him that made him more worthy of being part of a trade for an asset rather than a free-agent signing will have to be something Sweeney explains or perhaps it’ll be chalked up to Russian interference.

There also could’ve been an issue with the Bruins and Canadiens striking a deal after decades of being archrivals.

Anyway, the NHL trade deadline is 3 p.m. Monday and we’ll see if the Bruins can complete their pursuit of another over-the-hill forward (Joe Thornton?).

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