Los Angeles Kings

Ilya Kovalchuk signs with LA Kings

The Los Angeles Kings made their first free agent splash during the NHL draft on Saturday morning announcing that they had come to terms with winger Ilya Kovalchuk. The preliminary terms listed it as a three year deal with an average annual value (AAV) of $6.25 million.

The 35-year-old Kovalchuk is making his return to the NHL for the first time since 2013. For the last five years, heĀ  had been playing in the Russian professional league the KHL for SKA Saint Petersburg.

This was not the first time the Kings sought the services of Kovalchuk. Back in 2010, they were in the running to sign him to their roster, but lost out to the New Jersey Devils.

Kovalchuk famously signed a 15-year $100 million contract with the Devils that seemed to circumvent the salary cap rules. He only lasted three years with the Devils when he abruptly “retired” after the 2013 NHL lockout.

Kovalchuk was not happy with the NHL and cited a desire to be closer to his family back in Russia, he signed with the SKA St Petersburg.

This past season, Kovalchuk lead the KHL in points (63) and was second in goals (31). He also was the MVP of the Olympic men’s hockey tournament, leading the Russian national team to a gold medal.

He was the first ever Russian born player taken first in the NHL Entry Draft back in 2003. A point a game player, Kovalchuk has 816 points in 816 career NHL games. His 417 goals were the most by an active player over his 11 NHL seasons.

Kings general manger Rob Blake summed up the Kings feelings stating:

“We are excited to add Ilya to the LA Kings organization. He gives us an added element of skill and scoring along with a desire to win.”

Blake is not wrong in his assessment of what the Kings needed this past season. Even though the team did score more goals this past year, up from 25th to 17th in the league, there were long stretches of lack of scoring.

Kovalchuk gives the Kings a dangerous player on the left wing, something that Kings have been missing. He will also be able to augment a power play unit that was middling at 18th in the NHL.

There are concerns, though, that a three-year contract for a 35-year-old is quite risky. However, it should be noted that other teams, like the Sharks and Golden Knights, were also in the running for Kovalchuk.

If Kovalchuk proves to be a consistent force this will be a big signing for Rob Blake.

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