Despite a rally held by 100 people outside the Bell Centre on Sunday, winger Alex Kovalev will not return to the Montreal Canadiens.
Canadiens general manager Bob Gainey spoke to Montreal radio station CJAD on Monday where he restated his comments from last week about Kovalev not being brought back. Gainey told the radio station that the club made an offer to Kovalev last week, but the Russian winger took too long to consider the deal
"We hadn't agreed on the amount, but another player was willing to come and join our team," Gainey told the radio station. "So the dollars that we had allotted there for a particular position were grabbed up by another 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 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.
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.
The Candiens have under $9 million remaining under the salary cap for the upcoming season, but they have four restricted free agents left to sign. One of which is centre Tomas Plekanec, who was one of twenty players who elected to take their teams to salary arbitration on Sunday.