June 8, 2018 | 2:00pm ET
KINGS, SHARKS FRONTRUNNERS FOR KOVALCHUK?
Ilya Kovalchuk, left wing
When it was revealed that left wing Ilya Kovalchuk would be returning to the NHL, it only added to the already star-studded 2018 free agent class.
Headlined by superstar centre John Tavares and Stanley Cup champion defenseman John Carlson, there’s plenty of quality talent for the taking.
Many teams are rumored to be showing interest in the Russian, with the early reports pointing to the New York Rangers and Florida Panthers as favorites.
Despite the early speculation, the tide may have changed on the favorite landing spots for Kovalchuk.
According to TSN Hockey Insider Darren Dreger, Kovalchuk is scheduled to meet with the San Jose Sharks and the Los Angeles Kings.
The interest shown in Kovalchuk by the two clubs should not come as a surprise, as both teams are in the market to bolster their respective offenses. The Sharks have been a rumored frontrunner for Tavares for a long time now, so looking to add Kovalchuk may be a Plan B option. But with the club recently locking up left wing Evander Kane to a seven-year, $49 million contract, and now having under $8 million of cap-space to work with for next season, it may be a tough cap crunch for General Manager Doug Wilson to get done.
As for the Kings, it seems like Kovalchuk’s addition would be much more valued. It has already been reported that the Kings will be in the hunt for a scoring winger, as TFP Sr. Writer Dennis Bernstein has pointed to Carolina Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner as a possible fit.
Considering this, Kovalchuk would be just what the doctor ordered for LA. Despite finishing 16th in the NHL in goals for (237) over the regular season, the Kings mustered up a mere three goals in four playoff games. The Kings’ four left wings heading into next season are project to be Tanner Pearson, Alex Iaffalo, Tobias Reider and Kyle Clifford; so adding Kovalchuk to the fold would likely place him at the top of the depth chart. Additionally, the Kings were the rumored runner up to landing Kovalchuk back in 2010, before ultimately re-upping with the New Jersey Devils. If Kovalchuk were to land in LA it would be somewhat of poetic justice.
Adding Kovalchuk would be no easy task for Kings GM Rob Blake, as the Kings are tight against the cap. With LA projecting to have a little more than $4 million (which will increase with the expected salary cap increase), it would likely take a few moving parts to add Kovalchuk.
It isn’t yet clear what Kovalchuk will be looking for in term of dollars, but per Pierre Lebrun of The Athletic, Kovalchuk’s agent J.P. Barry will be looking for a multi-year contract.
Kovalchuk has played the last five years for St. Petersburg of the KHL, in which the players has registered 285 points in 262 regular season games.