Per DMG's suggestion, I'm breaking this out into a fanpost.
All of the Kovalev talk and rumors that the Habs are shopping him made me wonder, would they take Nylander in a deal for Kovalev? I've gotten accustomed to viewing Nylander as untradeable, but I think if there is a way to move him, this might be the only way to do it.
The NMC: Nylander has a NMC, and getting him to waive that is a strict requirement. But there's some reason to think that he might to play for Montreal. Most players regard Montreal as one of the best cities to play in, if you can handle the pressure. Nylander's played in New York, so he can probably deal with that. Whether he's willing to waive the NMC at all is very much in question, but you'd think that if he would go anywhere, Montreal is a possibility.
Pros/Cons for Montreal: It seems like the Habs might want to move Kovalev no matter what. His $4.5m contract expires in the offseason and right now they think they're a better team without him. This would get rid of Kovalev. They are also lacking in center depth now and in terms of guys under contract beyond this year. They just lost Lang for the year and both Koivu and Lang are UFAs after this season (their only Cs under contract per nhlnumbers in 09 are Lapierre, Chipchura, and Maxwell; Higgins and Plekanec are RFAs). Nylander also plays well against MTL for some reason, so there might be some extra incentive there (4 points in 3 games this year, 2 points in 2 games last year, 4 points in 4 games in 06-07).
As for the cons, the problem with Nylander is that he has been lost for the Caps and is under contract for 2 more years for a lot of money. With any other team, I think the contract is a dealbreaker. I'm not sure it would be for Montreal for the reasons mentioned. This might be worth the risk for them.
Pros/Cons for the Caps: Getting rid of Nylander's contractual obligations beyond this year is probably reason enough for the Caps, and they would be getting back an enigmatic but talented Russian in Kovalev with a lot of playoff experience. Kovalev is a UFA after this year, so this would be an NBA-style "expiring contract" type of move. But Kovalev could have some upside on a team alongside Ovi, Semin, and Fedorov (and possibly Kozlov). You have to think that if there is any team where Kovalev could find some sort of fire, it would be with the Russians the Caps already have.
The biggest con for the Caps is that they would lose depth at center and, after this year, might not have another #2-type center on the roster. They'd also be getting an enigmatic guy who might not buy into a secondary role or play hard at both ends of the ice.
For me, this move would be a great way to successfully dump Nylander's salary and have Kovalev as a low-risk rental. If he plays well, the team can discuss bringing him back, but if he doesn't or chooses to sign elsewhere, they will have Nylander's money freed up and an army of free agents that want to play in Washington. Depending on what kind of extra picks/prospects Montreal would want as compensation for taking on Nylander's contract, this deal might be a no-brainer for the Caps.
What do you think, Caps faithful? Would you do this deal in principle? How much would you be willing to throw in to make it happen?