UPDATE, 10:35 a.m. Pacific:
Kovalchuk may or may not be on his way out. It is currently unconfirmed and Dennis Bernstein is the only person who has tweeted about The Hockey News’ original report.
On report #LAKings are working on a release of Ilya Kovalchuk from his contract, agent JP Barry declined comment.— Dennis Bernstein (@DennisTFP) November 13, 2019
Both sides scheduled to talk again today.
Source close to matter categorized it as a “fluid situation.”
UPDATE 10:40 p.m. Pacific:
More from McLellan: “Kovy’s on board. Just like the rest of the players, he’ll get his opportunity to come back in. We have to treat him like any other player.” https://t.co/INGCdooJkB— Jack Harris (@Jack_A_Harris) November 13, 2019
UPDATE, 7:09 p.m. Pacific: Based on reports from local beat reporters, in pre-game media availability, Rob Blake would only confirm that Kovalchuk was set to be a scratch tonight. He did say that he talked with Kovalchuk, as he typically does when a veteran player is scratched. Blake said he has not received a trade request from Kovalchuk.
UPDATE, 5:08 p.m. Pacific: Kings Insider Jon Rosen confirmed that Ilya Kovalchuk will be a healthy scratch tonight, but that no trades or other moves are imminent.
Earlier this afternoon, Elliotte Friedman tweeted this about Ilya Kovalchuk:
There is word this afternoon that LA has informed Ilya Kovalchuk he will be out of the lineup for the foreseeable future. He is welcome to practice with the club, but he will not be playing. Obviously, more details as they occur.— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) November 12, 2019
In essence, the Los Angeles Kings told Kovalchuk he’s fired. Thanks for everything over the last year, but we don’t see a future for you in Los Angeles.
It’s very interesting that two summers ago the Kings were all in on the Ilya Kovalchuk Sweepstakes but then realized that the Russian winger is beyond his prime and is really only good as a power play specialist. Except then none of the three coaches that Los Angeles has had in the last two seasons have known what to do with him either on special teams or at even strength. It’s frustrating that the six million dollar man isn’t scoring goals (then again, no one on this roster currently is).
Oddly, it seems that no matter how power play teams have been changed around in the past two seasons, Kovalchuk somehow never ended up as the guy to shoot at the net. He was always in a rather stagnant, passive role, which is not going to set him up for success. Instead, coaches have continually chosen to have Drew Doughty take slapshots from the blue line that, more often than not, get blocked (and it’s not like he has a Shea Weber-esque cannon of a shot—he’s about average, really).
This team continues to puzzle and mystify. I’m sure Rob Blake has a plan. And as General Manager, he has every right not to publicly share them. But it’s still a curious thing how quickly the organization has soured on Kovalchuk. Certainly one does wonder if and how hard Blake tried to trade the winger. Was Kovalchuk’s no movement clause and 35+ contract that big of a deal killer?
Following the end of this season, Kovalchuk only has one more year left on his deal. At $6.25M AAV, he’s certainly not an appetizing trade prospect (though rumors abounded last year that he’d be willing to waive his NMC just to get the heck out of Dodge). Theoretically, any team he goes to wouldn’t have to honor his NMC/NTC. For now, it’s wait and see. No matter what happens, all the best to Ilya and his family and may he see success in the future.
We will update with new information as it becomes available.