Ilya Kovalchuk’s tenure with the Los Angeles Kings may have fallen from “bad” to “disaster” this week as it appears as though it could be the beginning of the end for the veteran winger in Los Angeles. According to a report from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the Kings have informed Kovalchuk that he will not be playing with the club for “the foreseeable future.”
“There is word this afternoon that L.A. has informed Ilya Kovalchuk he will be out of the lineup for the foreseeable future,” Friedman said on Tuesday afternoon. “He is welcome to practice with the club, but he will not be playing.”
Kovalchuk’s return to the NHL following a multi-year stint in the KHL hasn’t exactly gone as planned and it looks like the Kings may be ready to move on. Last season, the Russian winger’s usage was questionable and he appeared to be at odds with the team’s coaching staff, though he did finish third among L.A. forwards with 34 points (16 goals, 18 assists) in 64 games.
This season, things haven’t fared much better. He has three goals and six assists through 17 games this year (one goal and two assists in his last 13 contests) and has been a liability for Los Angeles. The 36 year old currently holds a team-worst goal-share of 26.32 percent.
Kovalchuk is currently in the second year of a three-year contract he signed with the Kings in the summer of 2018. That deal brings an annual cap hit of $6.25 million and includes a no-movement clause this season. The Kings informing Kovalchuk that they don’t plan on playing him could be a sign that they’re trying to convince the winger to waive that NMC in order to trade him elsewhere soon.
Kings general manager Rob Blake met with the media on Tuesday night and said that Kovalchuk is simply a healthy scratch right now. Blake also added that he has not received a trade request from the player.
It’s presently unknown if the Kings have explored the idea of moving Kovalchuk or whether he would be open to waiving his protection in order to get a fresh start elsewhere. If so, it will be interesting to see how much interest there is in his services and how much money the Kings would have to retain in order to get something of value back in return.
What is known, however, is that the winger hasn’t been a great fit with the Kings, which isn’t entirely surprising given the fact that he’s an aging vet on a rebuilding team that already had too many aging vets when they signed him over a year ago.