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Ilya Kovalchuk’s last chance is paying off, and the best may be yet to come

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The Canadiens took a flyer on Ilya Kovalchuk, and whether he stays with the team or not, he still has something to offer.

NHL: Montreal Canadiens at Ottawa Senators Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

The Montreal Canadiens finally ended their second extended losing streak of the season, once again at eight games. That’s either good or bad news — depending on your opinion when it comes to tanking — but there is good news regardless of where you happen to stand on the issue.

Ilya Kovalchuk still has legitimate value. His first goal in a Habs uniform came in overtime, and he handed the Ottawa Senators a loss with an exciting individual display of skill.

He isn’t the player he once was, but he obviously still has some high-end skill. He didn’t need to be the fastest player in that particular situation, he slowed down almost to a stop and let his hands and his shot do the work.

The overtime winner is a reward for his overall quality work on the night. His on-ice numbers were fantastic, sitting at 66.67% Corsi-For, 61.11% of scoring chances, and 71.43% of high-danger scoring chances. He was one of the best players on the ice for the Tricolore, and if anyone deserved to get the game winner, it was him.

He’s sitting at a point-per-game pace since entering the lineup. I don’t think anyone expected that to be the case — fewer still will expect that pace to hold — but it has to make you wonder what the future holds for him.

Perhaps he’d be willing to sign a team-friendly deal to stick around Montreal for a few years and be part of the rebuild, reset, or whatever they’re deciding to call it. A veteran trigger-man like Kovalchuk isn’t a bad thing to have on a young roster, and he could be a part of a quick turnaround for the club in the next couple of seasons.

But I think the more likely scenario is that his comeback catches the attention of a legitimate contender, and he ends up traded to the highest bidder. He could be earning himself a chance at a championship here.

Marc Bergevin said this was Kovalchuk’s last chance and that he needed to buy in. He’s done that, and I’d bet that some of the contending teams are taking notice. As much as he could help the Tricolore turn things around, he might be worth something to a team that wants to rent some scoring help for a cup run.

And that would be quite the coup for Bergevin. He gave up nothing more than a bit of salary to add Kovalchuk to the roster, so to turn that into any kind of asset(s) would be tantamount to finding money. For all the valid criticism of his tenure, this could end up being quite the fortuitous dive into the bargain bin.

I don’t think Kovalchuk is going anywhere for the time being, but if he keeps performing the way he is, the Habs just might cash in at the deadline.