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Kovalchuk to get contract offer from Bruins, GM says

Sweeney says free agent forward has 'strong interest' in Boston

by Matt Kalman / Correspondent

DALLAS -- Ilya Kovalchuk will get a contact offer from the Boston Bruins, general manager Don Sweeney said Thursday.

The 35-year-old free agent forward played the past five seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League. He can't sign with an NHL team until July 1 but can agree to a contract before then.

"We've spoken to their camp, we did not meet in person," Sweeney said. "We've spoken, had numerous conversations with the representatives as to where they're at. We feel that we're a team he has strong interest in and we're going to see where it goes between now and however long it takes to make a decision."

The Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights are among the teams interested in Kovalchuk, TSN reported Thursday. Some may have already made him an offer, and Sweeney said the Bruins intend to.

"His options will be presented to him, so he'll see what's in front of him," Sweeney said. "It's kind of looking at a menu."

Kovalchuk hasn't played in the NHL since the 2012-13 season, when he had 31 points (11 goals, 20 assists) in 37 games for the New Jersey Devils. Playing for St. Petersburg SKA, Kovalchuk led the KHL in scoring this season with 63 points (31 goals, 32 assists) in 53 games. He has 285 points (120 goals, 165 assists) in 262 games during the past five seasons in the KHL.

"He'd be a nice addition. I am sure any team would say that right now," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy told The Boston Globe on Wednesday. "He's going to make your team better, and I think that's what you always look at as a coach, and fitting [talented players] in is the easy part. The tough part is getting those types of players."

Sweeney has been transparent about the Bruins not being able to re-sign 33-year-old forward Rick Nash, who can become an unrestricted free agent July 1, if they sign Kovalchuk.

The Bruins acquired Nash in a trade with the New York Rangers on Feb. 25. He sustained a concussion after playing 11 games for Boston and missed the rest of the regular season before returning for 12 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

"We continue to talk to Rick," Sweeney said. "He's going to take some time to make what decision he wants to make, and time's on his side. He gets to make that [decision]. We've been open to looking at that. Obviously we close the door if we were fortunate enough to sign Ilya, but again you're kind of jockeying simultaneously. But we understand he will have options as well."

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