The Los Angeles Kings have made a few trades this season, most notably shipping Jake Muzzin to Toronto for a solid package of future assets. That’s likely the theme of any additional deal they do between now and the February 25th trade deadline, despite climbing back into the playoff race over the last little while. The Western Conference wild card spots are still basically available for any team to take, including the Kings who have won three straight and are now just five points behind the St. Louis Blues. Los Angeles knows though that they need to change the makeup of their team and GM Rob Blake indicated recently that they are looking for picks and prospects, though won’t rush to sell off everything that isn’t tied down.
It’s interesting then, that Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic (subscription required) writes that veteran forward Ilya Kovalchuk is “definitely available” if a team were to come forward with an offer. The Kings only just signed Kovalchuk in the summer of 2018 to a three-year, $18.75MM contract but have obviously realized that his last few seasons of production might be wasted on a rebuilding roster. Kovalchuk though, picked Los Angeles for a reason and holds a full no-movement clause through the end of next season. If he doesn’t want to go anywhere he doesn’t have to, though LeBrun notes that the winger would “waive it if the right fit presented itself.”
After some strong play recently, Kovalchuk is up to 26 points in 44 games this season but is still a shadow of the dominant presence he once was. If any team does show interest, the Kings would likely have to retain some salary in order to get any kind of substantial return. With that though is the risk that Kovalchuk could disappear again, meaning his 35+ contract would be an empty cap hit sitting on both team’s books. Kovalchuk will have earned $13.8MM of the $18.75MM after July 1st of this year, when he receives his next signing bonus.
LeBrun notes that Boston, Vegas and San Jose also showed interest in the Russian winger in the summer, but all three may be looking elsewhere now to help their teams. Remember that Kovalchuk also passed on any interest from those three to sign in Los Angeles, meaning they might not be an appealing fit to him. Over the next two weeks we’ll find out exactly how much the Kings want to sell off their current roster, but it does appear as though the veteran forward is available for the right price.