Реклама в Интернет * Все Кулички
Kovalev moves to Ottawa to replace disgruntled Heatley // Ottawa Citizen
The 36-year-old Russian right winger - signed to a two-year, $10-million US contract by the Senators Monday - has all the natural gifts to take control of a game with a flash of flair.
When Senators general manager Bryan Murray labelled him as "one of the most exciting players in the league" late Monday afternoon, it wasn't mere hyperbole.
Even now, 16 years into his NHL career, he has the shot, the stickhandling and playmaking ability that another 600 players in the league can only dream of.
The Kovalev signing should also take some attention away from the ongoing saga involving the Senator's Dany Heatley, at least temporarily.
Yet even after playing 1,151 regular season games and another 116 games in the playoffs with the New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Montreal Canadiens, Kovalev remains a mystery, leaving a steady stream of general managers, coaches and fans wanting for more because they can't figure out what's going on between his ears.
He was so useless for former Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau during a 10-game goalless drought last season that Canadiens general manager Bob Gainey kept him home from a two-game road trip in February so he could "clear his head." There were doubts about whether he would play another game.
Then, upon his return, he promptly lit up Montreal's Bell Centre with a goal and two assists in a 5-3 victory over the Senators and was the game's first star.
"The most important thing was that I was able to get the bad thoughts out of my mind that have been building up all year," he said after that game. "You try different things and nothing works and then you get confused, but in the last few days I've been able to clear my mind."
His career has been as clear as mud: unstoppable one night, invisible the next two or three.
Now, in the latest twist, Kovalev arrives in Ottawa as the effective replacement for the disgruntled Heatley.
While Heatley - who has requested a trade - remains a Senator for now, it's improbable that the Senators would keep Kovalev's $5-million annual salary on top of Heatley's annual salary of $7.5 million.
If Heatley's feelings were hurt because rookie Senators coach Cory Clouston decided to treat him like every other player, sitting him down when he didn't work hard enough, the Clouston-Kovalev relationship also has the potential for fireworks.
Character has hardly been a hallmark of his Kovalev's career.
Naturally, Murray suggested that the issues of Kovalev's past have been overblown, preferring to look at his career regular season totals for goals (394), assists (547) and post-season success (44 goals and 54 assists in 116 games). Murray said he was "scared to death" every time Kovalev stepped over the boards for Montreal, fearful that he would be the difference in the game.
"I think you always want your player to play 100 per cent, and that's difficult over 82 games and if you are judgmental you can find a hole," he said, deflecting character questions away as niftily as one of one of Kovalev's highlight goals.
"I think Alex, they claim, has been a little more inconsistent than he should be. I think the opposite. I think when he plays great he can win a game for you. In this organization we've got many hard workers and guys that will compete for us every night, but we needed something special to go with that and this guy's a special player."
It's too much to think Kovalev might match the 44 goals and 95 points he scored with Pittsburgh in 2000-01 or even the 35 goals and 49 assists he scored with Montreal in 2007-08, but Murray said the expectation is that Kovalev would top the 30-goal mark next season. He scored 26 goals and 39 assists with Montreal last season.