According to several reports, former LA Kings forward Ilya Kovalchuk has signed with Avangard Omsk of the KHL, ending his NHL tenure again.
When the LA Kings inked Ilya Kovalchuk to a three-year deal in June 2018, it was one of the most puzzling signings, especially given where the organization was in terms of the rebuild. While general manager Rob Blake was trading away veteran players from the Stanley Cup runs, he brought in a 35-year-old winger whose last NHL game came against the Kings in Game 6 of the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals.
Perhaps he was trying to catch lightning in a bottle?
Kovalchuk opted to sign with Saint Petersburg of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) during the NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement lockout. The followed summer, he signed a four-year extension to remain with the club.
Returning to the NHL in 18-19, Kovalchuk put up respectable numbers, scoring 16 goals with 18 assists in 64 games. Granted, the Kings were in the midst of their transition, but Kovalchuk finished with the fourth-best points (34) and power play goals (4). The following year, the 36-year-old got off to a slow start, tallying nine points and a -10 rating in 17 games.
The writing was on the wall for Kovalchuk, and his time in Los Angeles was over, as the front office terminated his contract. Of course, the Kings are responsible for his $6.3M cap hit through the upcoming season, but, despite already boasting one of the league’s best salary cap space, some financial flexibility will open up even further.
"“It didn’t work, it’s as simple as that,” Blake said. “It didn’t work both ways, he’s free, after today here, to look around and continue his options here in the NHL and move on…it just didn’t work, but you’ve got to be able to cut a tie and move on. I think, for both parties, that’s kind of the way it worked out.”"
Regarding what’s next for Kovalchuk, reports surfaced on Friday that the 37-year-old is heading back to Russia, signing with the Avangard Omsk of the KHL.
If this is finally it for Kovalchuk in the NHL, the former first overall pick in the 2001 NHL Draft will finish with 443 goals and 433 assists over a 13-year career. He finished second in Calder Trophy voting, scoring 29 goals with 22 assists during the 01-02 season.