In a season that has been quite the disappointment for the defending Southeast Division champion Florida Panthers, there have been some good moments. Rookie Jonathan Huberdeau looks like a bona fide NHL scoring star, and goaltender Jacob Markstrom is starting to look like the franchise’s future in net. Lost in the shuffle of league news in the past week was the retirement of Panthers’ forward Alex Kovalev, who ended his career quietly and without the fanfare it arguably deserved.
Kovalev joined the Panthers after the lockout ended, and had a goal and two assists in a season-opening victory over the Carolina Hurricanes. He would end up playing 14 games for the Panthers, but would struggle to add just one more goal and one more assist. He leaves the NHL with some borderline-Hall of Fame numbers as well as a Stanley Cup championship. It’s a shame that such a great career came to an end in such a manner, but perhaps a greater shame that few even knew it had happened.
In more than 1,300 career games, Kovalev scored 430 goals and had 1,029 points while playing for the New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators and the Panthers. He won the Stanley Cup with the Rangers in 1994 and was one of the first Russian players to have his name engraved on the sacred chalice. After he struggled following a trade to the Penguins during the 2010-11 season, Kovalev returned home to play in the KHL last season. He was limited to 22 games, and between that campaign and his stint with the Panthers, it became clear that the desire was still there, but he there was not enough gas left in the tank. Hopefully at some point Kovalev gets the recognition he deserves for a great career.