Red Wings showing interest in Bylsma, Kovalchuk

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Ilya Kovalchuk

Detroit — Two high-profile NHL names have been linked to the Red Wings in recent days as the organization begins tweaking the coaching staff and player roster.

Dan Bylsma, a veteran and Stanley Cup winning coach, and forward Ilya Kovalchuk, a prolific goal-scorer who has been playing in Russia, are both on the Wings’ radar as the organization holds meetings this week to complete plans for potential trades and free agency.

Bylsma, who coached the Pittsburgh Penguins to a Stanley Cup in 2009 (defeating the Red Wings), has been linked to an assistant’s job on coach Jeff Blashill’s staff.

The news was first reported by Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman. Bylsma, a native of Grand Haven, worked as a studio analyst for NHL Network this past season and has been linked to various head coaching positions.

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Bylsma, 47, coached the Penguins from 2009-14, and the Buffalo Sabres from 2015-17.

Blashill — who is entering the final year of his contract — and Bylsma recently had an opportunity to work together — sort of a trial run, as it were.

Blashill was head coach of Team USA at last month’s men’s world championships in Denmark and Bylsma was an assistant on the staff.

Team USA won a bronze medal in the tournament.

The Red Wings need one assistant coach, having let go John Torchetti after the season ended.

Dan Bylsma had head coaching stints with Pittsburgh and Buffalo.

As for Kovalchuk, the Wings would appear to be a long shot to obtain the veteran winger as TSN’s Darren Dreger reports there are approximately nine teams who are interested in signing the unrestricted free agent.

Kovalchuk, 35, last played in the NHL in 2012-13 for the New Jersey Devils.

He’s played in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League since, and scored 63 goals over the last two seasons. This season, Kovalchuk starred for the gold-medial winning Olympic Athletes of Russia at the Winter Olympics, where he was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.

The Wings’ interest in Kovalchuk is understandable in the fact the team lost a staggering 27 one-goal games last season, and ranked 24th on the power play (17.5 percent).

Adding a goal-scorer such as Kovalchuk, who still possesses one of the hardest and most accurate shots in the world, would likely help the Wings offensively.

But the Wings are admittedly in a rebuild, and are trying to add young players into the lineup.

Signing a player such as Kovalchuk could take ice time away from prospects such as Michael Rasmussen, Evgeny Svechnikov or Tyler Bertuzzi.

Kovalchuk has yet to win a Stanley Cup, and is reportedly looking for a team close to winning, as well as a two- or three-year contract at around $6 million per season.

The Wings would likely be more interested in a one- or two-year deal, which might not interest Kovalchuk, who can’t officially sign a contract until July 1.