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Kovalev's run as a Canadien over

Monday, 07.06.2009 / 12:18 PM / 2009 NHL Offseason News

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

Close to 200 die-hard members of the Alex Kovalev fan club took to the streets around the Bell Centre on Sunday, chanting for their favorite Russian winger to be re-signed by the Montreal Canadiens.

Less than 24 hours later, GM Bob Gainey made them all very unhappy by going on a local radio show and saying the Habs are no longer in the market for Kovalev's smooth skating ability.

Gainey said Monday morning on CJAD's Andrew Carter Show that Kovalev was initially offered a chance to stay in Montreal on July 1, but an amount wasn't agreed upon and when business picked up Gainey had to act fast to remake his team.

The money that could have been Kovalev's instead went elsewhere.

"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."

The Canadiens signed Mike Cammalleri to a five-year contract worth $30 million, Brian Gionta to a five-year contract worth $25 million, Jaroslav Spacek to a three-year deal worth $11.5 million and Hal Gill to a two-year contract worth $4.5 million. They also took on the five years and more than $30 million remaining on Scott Gomez's contract by shipping Christopher Higgins and some prospects in a trade with the New York Rangers.

Kovalev, meanwhile, remains one of the biggest prizes left on the open market, which has slowed considerably since the opening-day frenzy. He finished the 2008-09 season with 26 goals and 33 assists, disappointing numbers considering he had 35 goals and 49 assists two seasons ago.

Kovalev, 36, played the last five seasons in Montreal.

Also still left on the market is center Saku Koivu, who served as the Canadiens captain since Sept. 30, 1999 and has played his entire 13-season career in La Belle Province. Koivu also won't return to the Habs and is linked to rumors involving the Anaheim Ducks, New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers and Minnesota Wild.

However, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that Saku and Mikko Koivu, the Wild's star center and Saku's younger brother, are not 100 percent certain that playing together would be in their best interests.

Alex Tanguay is still taking offers as well. The French-Canadian winger spent just one season in Montreal, totaling 41 points in 50 games.

It's likely that Robert Lang, Tom Kostopolous, Francis Bouillon, Patrice Brisebois, Mathieu Dandenault and Mathieu Schneider won't be back with Montreal either.

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com


Quote of the Day

We want to make sure that whoever makes our team really makes our team by earning it and not putting them in situations where they get preference because of their status as a first-round pick or whatever it might be. That's not going to happen. Everybody has to earn their way on our team.

— Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen on the team's prospects at development camp