Battered Blues eye Kovalev

Alex Kovalev won't likely be going anywhere until at least January 1, when the St. Louis Blues...

Alex Kovalev won't likely be going anywhere until at least January 1, when the St. Louis Blues ownership situation is settled. (ERROL McGIHON/QMI Agency Files)

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:51 PM ET

Alex Kovalev might not be singing the blues about Senators coach Cory Clouston the rest of the season.

While it’s a longshot because of the high risk for any team looking at Kovalev, league sources say there is one team — the banged-up St. Louis Blues — interested in acquiring the disgruntled Senators winger. But the Blues don’t have the cash to make a move right now.

Though he has denied making a trade request to Senators GM Bryan Murray, judging by the 37-year-old winger’s comments Friday about Clouston, it would appear Kovalev wouldn’t mind getting dealt.

“The Blues need forward help ... badly,” said a league executive Saturday.

How bad?

The battered and beaten Blues are without injured LW David Perron, C T.J. Oshie, C Andy McDonald and D Roman Polak. But they can’t make a move until their ownership situation is settled.

Sources say there is an investor ready to put more money into the Blues. That won’t happen until Jan. 1 for tax purposes, which means the club can’t afford to take on the remainder of Kovalev’s $5-million (all terms US) salary for now.

Depending on Senators’ on-ice fortunes in the next month, Murray will have to decide whether he’s going to be a buyer or seller at the Feb. 28 trade deadline.

If it’s the latter, Kovalev could be moved for a draft pick.

The situation with Kovalev in Ottawa reached a head last week when he was banished to the fourth line in practice Wednesday. As reported by the Sun, he complained about Clouston in a meeting with Murray.

Then, he didn’t help matters Friday by telling the media he was being made a scapegoat by Clouston and didn’t like being picked on. Kovalev told reporters he “just wanted to be left alone.”

Suddenly, Kovalev appeared on the top line that night with Milan Michalek and Jason Spezza in a 3-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils.

Kovalev’s promotion was surprising after Clouston’s tough talk. It was shocking to see Kovalev on the ice with the Senators defending a lead in the final minutes.

However, if the Senators are going to be successful in trading Kovalev, they have to get him contributing on a consistent basis to showcase his skills to other clubs.

Clouston was forced to come to his own defence after the victory.

“I change lines often,” said Clouston, who is also under the microscope. “I thought his first couple of shifts were really good. (Juggling the lines was) something we were looking at doing depending on how the game was going anyway. Just because a line (is used) in practice or in a game, it doesn’t mean it’s carved in stone. I thought (Kovalev) played well. We make such a big deal about him going onto a fourth line.

“Nick Foligno has done exactly the same thing. We expected him to be a top-six forward, he struggled early and we put him on the fourth line and he’s worked himself back into position. It’s no different than Alex. No one said he was going to be there for the whole year. We need him to play well with his linemates no matter who they are.”

At last check, Foligno ($1.2 million), who has two goals, wasn’t pulling down as big a paycheque as Kovalev and wasn’t disruptive.

Make no mistake, if the Senators can make a deal with the Blues or anybody else down the road involving Kovalev, they won’t resist.

bruce.garrioch@sunmedia.ca


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