Gainey confirms Kovalev finished as a Hab
The Canadian Press
Published Monday, July 6, 2009 1:44PM EDT
Alex Kovalev's days with the Montreal Canadiens are over.
General manager Bob Gainey told a local radio station on Monday the smooth-skating Russian won't be playing for the team next season.
Kovalev earned $4.5 million last season and became an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
Gainey said he offered the 36-year-old a new contract last week, but the crafty winger took too long to mull over the deal.
"We hadn't agreed on the amount, but another player was willing to come and join our team," he said.
"So the dollars that we had allotted there for a particular position were grabbed up by another player."
The Habs went on a shopping spree last week, signing free agents Mike Cammalleri, Brian Gionta, Jaroslav Spacek and Hal Gill and trading for high-priced forward Scott Gomez.
More than 100 people demonstrated outside the Bell Centre on Sunday, begging Gainey to open his wallet for Kovalev, who was acquired in 2004 in a trade with the New York Rangers.
On Monday, Gainey said he considered the gathering as more of an homage to Kovalev rather than a protest.
"I think that Alex has really left a mark on people and the hockey fans in Montreal and the fact that he won't be returning with our team is a difficult and emotional separation for them," he said.
The Canadiens have also decided not to re-sign popular forward, and team captain, Saku Koivu.