|Alex Kovalev, one of the most exciting players in the National Hockey League, has signed a two-year free-agent contract with the Ottawa Senators (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images).
The Ottawa Senators no longer have to fear being tormented by the many talents of Alex Kovalev.
Senators general manager Bryan Murray assured that on Monday, signing the free-agent forward to a two-year contract. Kovalev had spent the last five seasons with the Montreal Canadiens, one of Ottawa's biggest rivals in the Northeast Division.
"All I know is when I coached or watched our team play in the last couple of years against Montreal, every time he came on the ice, I was scared to death he was going to be the difference in the game," Murray told the media earlier today. "Some nights, he certainly was."
Murray admitted being "a little surprised" that he was able to fill his stated need for a top-six forward with a player he considers "a big-time player."
"I think he's one of the most entertaining players in the league and I hope our fans are real excited about this," he said. "I know our management team and coaches are very, very happy and the players I've talked to think it's a great, great move for this organization."
While Kovalev's signing pushes the Senators perilously close to the National Hockey League's salary cap limit, Murray said team owner Eugene Melnyk "was adamant that if we could get (Kovalev), go do it and we'll figure out how to fit everybody in when the time comes."
"When I started talking to him last week, I didn't know if we had a chance to go there or not," said Murray. "I know there were a couple of opportunities (with other teams)."
Salary cap relief could be on the way if the Senators can complete a deal for winger Dany Heatley, who requested a move last month. A potential trade with the Edmonton Oilers was stalled when Heatley wouldn't live the no-movement clause in his contract. Nothing has changed in that area in the past few days.
"I did talk to Edmonton one more time today," said Murray. "They're also in a holding pattern. They still seem quite interested but I haven't heard anything and I don't know whether an acceptance (by Heatley) to Edmonton is there or not.
"All I know is when I coached or watched our team play in the last couple of years against Montreal, every time he came on the ice, I was scared to death he was going to be the difference in the game. Some nights, he certainly was." - Bryan Murray
"I don't care where he plays. He can play any place he wants, if I can get the right deal. All I care about is what comes back to our club. Until I hear something we can do or some other team steps up and makes an offer that is somewhat acceptable, it's hard for me to react."
There is no such reluctance to react on Murray's part when it comes to evaluating what the 36-year-old Kovalev can bring to the Senators lineup. In 16 NHL seasons, he's scored 394 goals and 941 points. Two years ago, he had 35 goals and 84 points for the Habs.
"When he plays great, he can win a game for you," said Murray. "In this organization, we've got many hard workers, good workers that will compete for us every single night. But we needed something special to go with that and this guy is a special player in that he's got the ability to make players around him better.
"He's one of the most exciting players in the league. Talking to a couple of our players, they feel that this guy will step in and really help us a great deal."