Kings: Kovalchuk Benched for “Foreseeable Future”

The Los Angeles Kings have told forward Ilya Kovalchuk that he will be out of the lineup for the “foreseeable future,” said Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman Tuesday.

By most accounts, this would seem to suggest that Kovalchuk’s tenure with the Kings is coming to an end. He’s seen his ice time chopped down this season and has nine points in 17 games, averaging 15:25 a game.

Kovalchuk returned to the NHL last season after five seasons in the KHL. He had 34 points in 64 games with Los Angeles in 2018-2019.

Kovalchuk can practice with the Kings but he can’t play in games, according to Friedman.

The 36-year-old is on tap to receive his last bonus payout in mid-December, which will total about $6 million. His base salary is set at $700,000 for this season, as it was last season, but he’s owed $4.25 million next season – the last year of his deal. In the final season of the contract, a modified no-trade clause take should that lets Kovalchuk submit a seven team list for potential trades.

The Kings reportedly had tried to trade Kovalchuk last season, but there was no market interest. He’ll clearly have to waive the current no-trade clause to get out of Dodge and he’ll have every motivation to do so given the benching.

If nothing else, this is Los Angeles’ way to move things along.

The Kings really didn’t know what to do with Kovalchuk since his reboot into the NHL, so it’s hardly surprising things have come to this sort of conclusion. They’ve tried to insert him as a power play specialist, but the revolving door of coaches in Los Angeles has struggled to make the right roster moves – and that hasn’t facilitated goals from the Russian winger.

So whether through Kovalchuk’s passivity on the power play, itself a by-product of just having Drew Doughty crank shots from the point until something works out, or through misplaced faith in an elder statesman, the relationship is over.

The Kings have effectively fired Kovalchuk. We await the next chapter.

Photo credit: Harry How/Getty

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