Kings’ Ilya Kovalchuk still believes he can be an offensive contributor

Elliotte Friedman and Chris Johnston discuss the latest news around the NHL, including how the Toronto Maple Leafs will replace Tyson Barrie, the Arizona Coyotes making an offer for Taylor Hall, and the future of both Ilya Kovalchuk and Pete DeBoer.

Five weeks have come and gone since Los Angeles Kings forward Ilya Kovalchuk last played an NHL game. But the wait might be over soon for the 36-year-old, who still believes in himself — and whose contract is about to become much more affordable.

According to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston, Kovalchuk’s representatives and the Kings will speak in the coming days about Kovalchuk finding his way back into NHL action.

“The key thing to stress is he wants to play,” Johnston said during the Headlines segment of Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday. “He believes that he can help out a team offensively.”

Kovalchuk, who has three goals and nine points in 17 games this year, is due for a $2.65 million bonus on Sunday. After that, he’ll only be owed the pro-rated amount of his $700,000 base salary. That could be of interest to teams that are seeking veteran depth on the cheap.

Though he has struggled this year, Kovalchuk has a well-respected NHL pedigree, which includes 436 goals in 897 games.

“Maybe (the Kings) terminate the contract, maybe there’s a trade market that wasn’t present earlier in the season before this bonus was paid,” Johnston said. “But Kovalchuk’s been skating with the team for more than a month. Hasn’t played, (but) he’s on the road trip in Pittsburgh and there’s hope there’ll be a chance to get him back here soon.”


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