General manager Rob Blake made a splash when he signed the Russian winger to a three-year, $18.75-million contract last summer, when both sides expected Kovalchuk to boost the team’s anemic scoring and help the Kings contend for the Stanley Cup.
However, the Kings’ overall lack of speed, scoring and defensive consistency have dropped them out of playoff contention and they’ve already begun trading key assets in order to clear salary-cap space for next season and add draft picks for a rebuild.
A team spokesman said Friday that Blake “has been speaking regularly with Ilya and his representatives as it relates to all various aspects and options leading up to the trade deadline.”
It’s not clear whether Kovalchuk would agree to be traded, should a trade partner be found. If someone does want to take him on, it’s likely the Kings would have to retain a portion of his salary to make a trade work.
According to capfriendly.com, Kovalchuk, 35, has a no-move clause in his contract through next season. In 2020-21 he has a modified no-trade clause and a no-move clause.
Kovalchuk has scored 13 goals — including nine on the power play — and 28 points in 50 games this season. He had a good start but after John Stevens was fired as coach and Willie Desjardins took over, Kovalchuk wasn’t used on the first power-play unit and sometimes ended up on the fourth line, a waste of his goal-scoring talents.