Tuesday: Kovalchuk has cleared unconditional waivers according to LeBrun, meaning he’ll now see his contract terminated and become an unrestricted free agent. Igor Eronko of Sport-Express reports that Kovalchuk wants to join an NHL contender and is willing to take the minimum salary of $700K. The Boston Bruins, who were one of the teams that pursued Kovalchuk when he was returning from the KHL, are said to have some interest.
Monday: Now that his final signing bonus chunk has been paid, Ilya Kovalchuk is expected to leave the Los Angeles Kings, according to Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic. The veteran forward would then be in breach of his contract, leading to a termination. That series of events would not remove the $6.25MM cap hit from the Kings’ books for this year or next, but would mean they don’t have to pay him the rest of his $700K salary this season, or the $4.25MM due in 2020-21. As LeBrun explains, a termination would leave him an unrestricted free agent able to sign with any other NHL team.
Kovalchuk, 36, was removed from the Kings’ lineup more than a month ago and has played in just 17 games this season. Once a brilliant goal scorer and one of the elite offensive weapons in the NHL, he has just 19 goals and 43 points in 81 games since returning from the KHL in 2018. Those totals have come along with a -36 rating and poor defensive play, though could now still drive interest around the league as a potential mid-season addition.
Given that he has already earned a huge portion of the three-year, $18.75MM deal he signed with the Kings in 2018, Kovalchuk could potentially sign a much more inexpensive contract for the rest of this season. As a powerplay option and scoring threat on a cheap deal, he could provide some excess value to a contender this year.
It is important to note that the KHL has also made a significant push to bring Kovalchuk back to Russia, though it has been reported that he wishes to stay in the NHL if possible.