An angry Alex Kovalev has voiced his displeasure with management about his role as a fourth-liner.
Senators GM Bryan Murray confirmed to QMI Agency before Thursday’s visit by the Rangers to Scotiabank Place that he met with Kovalev after Wednesday’s practice to discuss the winger’s diminishing role.
Unable to generate any offence on a line with Mike Fisher and Milan Michalek, Kovalev started vs. the Rangers playing with Jesse Winchester and Peter Regin, who returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch for two games.
“There’s no question he’s unhappy, but that’s as far as it goes,” Murray told QMI Agency after the morning skate. “He wants to help. He’s a good guy. Despite (what the media say), he’s a character guy and a good veteran.”
Even though trouble appears to be brewing, Murray and Kovalev’s agent, Scott Greenspun, both insisted the 37-year-old — who is in the second of a two-year, $10- million US contract — hasn’t requested a trade.
“That didn’t happen,” said Greenspun.
Dealing Kovalev, who has a no-movement clause, isn’t realistic because nobody has the money to take on his contract. If the Senators fall out of the playoff hunt, he might be attractive to a contender looking to bulk up.
Is Kovalev happy here?
“You’re happy when the team is having success and you’re able to contribute,” said Greenspun.
At the end of Thursday’s 20-minute skate, Kovalev was the first player off the ice.
He hasn’t been available for comment since coach Cory Clouston moved him to the fourth line.
Clouston insinuated Kovalev could be a healthy scratch if he doesn’t start producing.
Clouston is frustrated with Kovalev’s inability to contibute on a consistent basis.
That’s why the decision was made to switch the lines.
“A lot of (what’s wrong with Kovalev) has to come from within,” said Clouston. “There’s only so many things you can do. I’m sure it’s been the same situation throughout his career. When he plays (well), he’s very dominant.
“Obviously, other nights, he’s not. We need more consistency. Not only from him, but from the rest of the team. If you’re asking specifically about him, he just needs to be a lot more consistent. You guys see the games, you can see which games he’s on and which games he’s not.”
Does that drive Clouston nuts?
“I’m more concerned about the teammates,” said Clouston. “They’re the ones out there working with him and playing with him. Sometimes they don’t know which guy is going to show up.
“We just need him to be more consistent. If he is, he’s a big part of our team, he’s a pretty good hockey player and he helps us win games.”
Before the game against the Rangers, Kovalev had seven goals and seven assists in 29 games this season. As further evidence to what Clouston was saying, all of those points came in eight games, which means Kovalev’s been held pointless 21 times — including the past five games.
The Senators had no illusions about what they were getting when they signed Kovalev. He may have eclipsed the 1,000-point career plateau on Nov. 22 against the Kings, but he’s rarely been consistent.
While most Senators have had their issues scoring goals this season, Kovalev is one of those players who is being counted on to bury goals based on past performance and salary.
Kovalev might be “unhappy” skating on the fourth line, but he also has to come to the realization he’s not the only one upset with what’s transpired.
The bottom line is: He has to start contributing.