Though it has been expected for quite some time, the Los Angeles Kings officially announced the signing of Nikolai Prokhorkin today. The deal is a one-year entry-level contract that will bring Prokhorkin over to North America for the 2019-20 season.
Prokhorkin, 25, will make the jump from the KHL after registering the most productive season of his career. The 6’1″ forward recorded 20 goals and 41 points in 41 games, taking over some of the offensive responsibility from Ilya Kovalchuk after the latter returned to the NHL. They’ll join forces once again in Los Angeles, where Prokhorkin tried to play several years ago as well. The young Russian actually signed a contract with the team in 2012 but it was ruled invalid after he suited up eight times with the Manchester Monarchs of the AHL. He had already signed on in the KHL and was forced to return there, where he played the next seven seasons.
Now his return comes at a time when the Kings are searching for answers in their rebuild. The team has committed quite a bit of money to aging stars—including Kovalchuk who has two years left on his $18.75MM deal—but ended this season in 30th place with a 31-42-9 record and just 199 goals scored. With the trades of Jake Muzzin, Tanner Pearson and Oscar Fantenberg the team has started to reshape their group, but could use some offense if they’re going to contend for a playoff spot.
Prokhorkin can certainly bring that in the KHL, but the question will be whether he can produce in the NHL going forward. His one-year contract will keep him a restricted free agent in the summer of 2020, meaning he’ll have an opportunity to show he is worthy of a multi-year deal. It will be interesting to see how new head coach Todd McLellan deploys his Russian wingers, and whether or not GM Rob Blake makes any other big changes this offseason.