Ilya Kovalchuk toured the Kings’ El Segundo practice facility Monday and his agent met with General Manager Dean Lombardi much of the day, but club executives were mum about their talks and gave no indication they were near an agreement that would put the two-time 50-goal scorer in a Kings uniform next season.
Kovalchuk, the prize of this summer’s NHL free-agent class, flew from his Florida home to Los Angeles on Sunday night for his first face-to-face meeting with the Kings’ brass since they began pursuing him July 1. He was expected to take a look around the area and try to decide whether he would feel comfortable living here with his wife and three young children — and whether the Kings’ up-and-coming status might be enough reason to back off his 10-year, $100-million asking price.
Even if a deal is reached it likely wouldn’t be announced until after Tuesday’s Major League Baseball All-Star game in Anaheim.
Tim Leiweke, the Kings’ governor and chief executive of the team’s parent company, AEG, declined to comment Monday. Lombardi did not respond to several requests for an assessment of where the Kings stand and whether his talks with Kovalchuk’s agent, Jay Grossman, will continue Tuesday.
Grossman has been silent about his client’s status since last Monday, when he said via Twitter that Kovalchuk’s choices had been “narrowed down.” Much has changed since then, including the Kings’ return to the negotiating table. They twice walked away after deciding they couldn’t fit his salary under the cap, retain their core players and add the players they will need to become a Stanley Cup contender.
Kings captain Dustin Brown said he met Kovalchuk at the rink Monday and was impressed. “I like him. He seemed like a humble and good guy,” Brown said at a launch party for his DLO23 sticks and clothing line.
He added he doesn’t know where the talks stand and is not involved in the process.
Center Jarret Stoll also met Kovalchuk, as did defenseman Matt Greene. “It seemed like he cares about being here and hopefully playing for the Kings,” Stoll said. “He wants to win, and that’s the most important thing for anybody to say and to think.”