It’s a draft day surprise, but maybe not the one you were expecting.
Eight years ago, Russian superstar Ilya Kovalchuk pondered his future after putting up 41 goals and 85 points. That year he’d been traded from the Atlanta Thrashers to the New Jersey Devils, and he was set up for a big deal. How big? Well, after the Los Angeles Kings (and their fans) put all their hopes in a Kovy signing, they eventually removed themselves from the rujnning, presumably after the number “$100 million” was thrown about. Cue LA hatred and Kovalchuk signing a deal with New Jersey, then having to sign another, only slightly less illegal deal, then Lou Lamiorello and the Devils losing a draft pick and a bunch of money for circumventing the salary cap, then the NHL shrugging and giving the draft pick and some of the money back, and holy crap, that was a mess, wasn’t it?
Anyway, Kovalchuk ended up with 174 points in 195 games in the three ensuing seasons, and lost a Stanley Cup to the Kings he’d spurned two years prior. Then he, uh, retired.
Fast forward five years, and after continued scoring success in the KHL and an MVP performance leading to a gold medal in Sochi, he’s ready to come back. The Kings will apparently welcome him with open arms.
KHL's leading scorer and 2018 Olympic MVP Ilya Kovalchuk will join the LA Kings for the 2018-19 season after agreeing to terms on a 3-year contract.https://t.co/xp15gyuKBu— LA Kings (@LAKings) June 23, 2018
From the press release:
The LA Kings and forward Ilya Kovalchuk have agreed to terms on a three-year contract, Kings Vice President and General Manager Rob Blake announced today.
”We are excited to add Ilya to the LA Kings organization. He gives us an added element of skill and scoring along with a desire to win. We will withhold further comment until July 1,” said Blake.
The 35-year-old Kovalchuk (born April 15, 1983) is a 6-3, 230-pound native of Tver, Russia who appeared in 53 regular-season games this past season with SKA St. Petersburg (KHL), recording 63 points (31-32=63), 26 penalty minutes and a plus-12 rating.
The Kings will pay $6.25 million a season over the next three years for the services of the 35-year-old. For a team that has shown zero willingness to enter a rebuild with their current core, it’s a logical move, albeit an expensive one. Rather than trading for Jeff Skinner and potentially giving up a solid defenseman or a younger prospect (and yes, that ain’t happening anymore), they make a move that simply costs them cap space. And that cap space is there, now that the cap has shifted to $79.5 million. As per Cap Friendly, LA is left with $2.15 million to work with after this signing.
The Kings’ offense was better than you might remember last year, and now they’re planting Jeff Carter, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Gabriel Vilardi smack in the middle of it. If Kovalchuk can remain as effective as he’s been, it’s a worthy gamble. If he fails to make up for the KHL-to-NHL gap, LA might regret that they chose Kovalchuk over Skinner or Max Pacioretty.
More analysis to come. As for me, I’m just stunned that the biggest offseason story from eight years ago had this epilogue all along.
What do you think of the Ilya Kovalchuk signing?
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No idea, I’ll wait and see
Don’t like it