Kovalev coasts out of NHL

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:22 PM ET

If Alexei Kovalev's goal is still to play until the age of 50, it would appear he's about to embark on a 12-year Kontinental Hockey League career.

That is, unless teams over there tire of his act, too.

The 38-year-old former Ottawa Senator has coasted his way right out of the NHL, finding no takers for his services in a league that has teams so desperate one of them is even considering signing Alexei Yashin -- while currently paying him to stay away.

But that's a whole other dopey story.

Not even the New York Islanders were dumb enough to offer a contract to Kovalev, who reportedly signed a two-year deal with Atlant Mytishchi of the KHL Friday. No financial terms were available.

Kovalev leaves the NHL as its 68th all-time leading scorer with 1,024 points in 1,302 games. One point behind him is Daniel Alfredsson, who has played 1,056 games.

Two more different players are hard to find.

While Alfredsson has been a prime example for younger players to follow with his hard work and dedication, Kovalev showed Senators teammates how not to behave during his two years with Ottawa. His lollygagging infuriated coaches and management. It was also the joke of the dressing room. But generally, nobody said a negative word about Kovalev, who was respected for his accomplishments of the past and seemed to still have the talent to turn a game around, when he wanted.

Curiously, he didn't want to often enough.

Kovalev never finished an interview without mentioning how he was playing for his team and his teammates, how he was always trying his best. Maybe he even believed it. Nobody else did. If he was going hard in his mind, he wasn't in his legs or his feet. They stayed almost still when a burst would have meant a scoring chance, a goal, or a successful backcheck.

Coach Cory Clouston finally stood up to Kovalev, taking him off the power play and relegating him to fourth-line status. Just what the frustrated fans wanted him to do. Except Kovalev responded by giving even less.

There were no tears when GM Bryan Murray -- who signed Kovalev to a two-year, $10-million deal either with or without the urging of owner Eugene Melnyk when the Senators were dire need of a goal scorer to fill Dany Heatley's spot -- dumped him at the trade deadline. All Murray could get was a conditional seventh round pick from the Pittsburgh Penguins, which was an indication right then and there Kovalev's NHL career was coming to an end.

In 131 games as a Senator, Kovalev scored 32 goals and 44 assists for 76 points, and took precious opportunity away from either a young offensive player in the organization or someone else in the league Murray should have signed. Kovalev never played a playoff game for Ottawa.

When he was sidelined with a knee injury before the 2010 post-season, Murray said the Senators probably would have upset the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round with a healthy Kovalev in the lineup. What he meant was they had a good chance with one more offensive player who was willing to pay the price. Kovalev mostly short-changed the Senators in that regard.

He did, however, show everyone what he was capable of on Jan. 3, 2010, in an afternoon affair at Scotiabank Place against the Philadelphia Flyers. Kovalev scored four goals and, during his skate as the game's first star, did the moonwalk for his "fans."

On Friday, he moonwalked right out of the NHL, almost certainly for good.

After two bad experiences, the Senators should never again bet on a dog named Alexei.

don.brennan@sunmedia.ca


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