BROSSARD - The rationale behind the Ilya Kovalchuk signing was rather simple, according to general manager Marc Bergevin.
Given the significant injuries the club is dealing with right now with forwards Brendan Gallagher, Joel Armia, Jonathan Drouin and Paul Byron on the sidelines, adding a player of his caliber was of primordial importance.
"I'm trying to help them in the short-term to stay in the playoff race until our injured players come back," said Bergevin, during a press conference on Friday afternoon at the Bell Sports Complex. "Those guys probably won't return before the All-Star break. That's the main reason why we signed him this morning."
Kovalchuk brings 897 games of NHL experience with him to Montreal, along with 436 goals and 859 points, so he certainly adds some scoring punch.
The terms of the deal also made sense for the club, too. Kovalchuk was given a one-year, two-way contract for the remainder of the 2019-20 campaign.
"We're trying to improve the team in the short-term without hurting the organization in the long-term," explained Bergevin. "You have high-risk, medium-risk and no-risk moves. Bringing Kovy to Montreal, there's no risk."
Video: Marc Bergevin's press conference
Back in mid-December, the 36-year-old Russian sniper's contract was terminated by the Los Angeles Kings and he became an unrestricted free agent.
Kovalchuk appeared in 17 games with the Kings this season, scoring three goals and collecting nine points. Ironically, his last game was at the Bell Centre on November 9.
Knowing full well what Kovalchuk is capable of when he's firing on all cylinders, Bergevin is eager to see him in action.
But the Habs' newest addition essentially controls his own destiny going forward, so to speak.
"He's a player who's motivated. In my conversation with Kovy this morning, I emphasized that we don't want to take away what he does well. We also have a system, though, and he has to buy in. Again, there isn't any risk for the organization with respect to assets or monetarily," stated Bergevin. "He knows it's his last chance. We have nothing to lose. We'll see where he's at, where his game's at, and we'll go from there. It's going to be up to him."
Admittedly, Bergevin did some homework on Kovalchuk before the deal was done, and the feedback was all positive.
The way things ended in Southern California didn't affect the decision to move ahead.
"I've talked to Nate [Thompson], who had him as a teammate, and [Canadiens assistant general manager] Scott Mellanby, who had him as a captain in Atlanta. I've never heard anything bad about Kovy," mentioned Bergevin. "He's a hard worker and he's a good person. Guys that perform, they want to score. I get that. It just didn't work out in LA. I talked to [Kings general manager] Rob Blake, and he's never caused problems. I did check that out."
As of Friday afternoon, the Canadiens were still working on securing a work visa for Kovalchuk.
Bergevin didn't expect him to be in the lineup against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night.
While Kovalchuk was the main topic of conversation during Bergevin's presser, he also touched upon the acquisition of veteran defenseman Marco Scandella from the Buffalo Sabres.
"He has good size. We already have good skaters with Kulak, Petry, Mete and Chiarot, so this gives us something different - a bigger body and more of a defender," explained Bergevin, who also shed some light on Scandella's possible future with the squad. "He's a free agent in July. There are 41 games left. Everything will be based on his performance. I'm not closing the door on next season, but I'm not there right now. It'll depend on his performance and how he fits with the team."