A day after some fans held a rally to keep Alex Kovalev in Montreal, the forward's tumultuous tenure in La Belle Province has come to an end as the enigmatic sniper has signed a two-year, $10 million contract with the Ottawa Senators.
One of the most skilled players in the league, the Togliatti, Russia native is also one of the most unpredictable. He can look spectacular one night, controlling the play, while completely disappearing for long stretches at a time.
The Kovalev signing comes at a time where the Senators are struggling to move forward Dany Heatley, who requested a trade last week, and twice wouldn't lift his no-movement clause to go to the Edmonton Oilers.
"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," Murray told reporters. "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."
Kovalev spent five up-and-down seasons in Montreal after being acquired in a trade with the New York Rangers for Josef Balej and a second round draft pick. He enjoyed his best season with the Habs in 2007-08 when he scored 35 goals, added 49 assists, was named a Second team NHL All-Star and helped lead the team to their first division title since the 1992-93 season.
Kovalev, like many of his Canadiens teammates, struggled under the weight of expectations during the Canadiens 100th anniversary campaign this past year. The low point for Kovalev came in March following the All-Star break when General Manager Bob Gainey told him to take some time away from the team in order to “clear his head.” Many speculated that Kovalev had played his last game for Montreal. He did return after missing two games and finished the season with 26 goals and 39 assists.
The 36-year old broke into the league with the New York Rangers after a stellar international career that saw him collect gold for the Soviet Union at the 1992 IIHF World Junior Hockey championship as well as gold for the Commonwealth of Independent States at the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France.
Kovalev continued his winning ways upon entering the NHL as he helped the New York Rangers capture the Stanley Cup in his second year in the league.
In 1151 career games, Kovalev has 394 and 547 asssists and twice played in the NHL All-Star game, being named the game's MVP this past year in Montreal.