As expected ever since Ilya Kovalchuk became a consistent healthy scratch in November, the Los Angeles Kings have placed the veteran forward on unconditional waivers in order to end his contract with the team.
News leaked on November 12, via national media rather than Los Angeles-based writers, that Kovalchuk had been told he would no longer play for the team, though he was welcome to practice with them. While Rob Blake downplayed the reports, trying to make it clear that Kovalchuk was being taken out of the lineup just like any other player who was underperforming, with every chance to get back in, the fact that Kovalchuk did not get into the lineup once since then indicates that the initial media reports were in fact true.
For their part, the official Kings statement on the end of the much-maligned Ilya Kovalchuk era was brief: “Ilya Kovalchuk has left the team and been placed on unconditional waivers for the purpose of terminating his contract with the club.”
Kovalchuk seemed to preempt any official announcement with an Instagram post this morning, captioned “So, what is next? #onlyforward”
Kovalchuk was paid the remainder of his signing bonus over the weekend, receiving $2.65 million, which made it far more palatable for him to end his contract now. He will walk away from the remaining $4.25 million on his contract, representing what he was to be paid next season.
His cap hit, however, will remain with the Kings and cannot be buried, moved, or done away with in any fashion, thanks to the rules around contracts signed with players over 35 years of age. With the Kings being a team that is not staring down a cap crunch in the next year, the dead space is frustrating but manageable and should not impact any necessary contract negotiations the Kings will engage in over this summer.
In 17 total games this season, Kovalchuk recorded three goals and six assists. He played 81 total games with the Kings over two seasons, finishing his Kings career with a total of 19 goals and 24 assists.