Kovalchuk has agreed to a three-year contract with the Kings, reports Bob McKenzie of TSN.ca. The average annual cap hit is $6.25 million, which is the same as the Leafs' deal with Patrick Marleau. Kovalchuk will immediately bring sniping to the Kings' top six, but he will be 38 in a young man's league when the deal ends.
Kovalchuk has met with the Bruins, Kings, Sharks and Golden Knights as he makes plans to return to the NHL, reports the NHL.com. He can't officially sign with a team until July 1, but he can agree to a contract before then. Kovy is 35 and clearly weighing several offers. He hasn't played in the NHL since 2012-13 when he scored 31 points in 37 games with New Jersey. Last season, Kovalchuk led the KHL in scoring with 63 points (31 goals, 32 assists) in 53 games and he has 285 points in 262 KHL games over the last five seasons.
Kovalchuk visited the Kings on Friday and the Sharks on Sunday, Darren Dreger of TSN reports. With the Stanley Cup celebrations continuing in Washington, Kovalchuk is seeking a home that will give him a solid shot at hoisting Lord Stanley. The Sharks and the Kings could both use an offensive asset like Kovalchuk, who has back-to-back, 30-goal seasons in the KHL and notched five goals in six games for Russia during the 2018 Winter Olympics. However, as much as Kovalchuk wants a championship, he doesn't need to take a pay cut either. The Sharks are tight on cash at the moment and are pondering re-signing Joe Thornton to a team-friendly deal. The Kings don't have much cap space either, but they have a more favorable free agency outlook. Kovalchuk has plenty of time to weigh his options, as he can't officially sign until July 1, but he can agree to terms with a team before that.
Kovalchuk is interested in signing with the Islanders, Islanders Point Blank reports. Kovalchuk has played under Lou Lamoriello with the Devils and wouldn't be against a reunion with his former boss. Kovalchuk hasn't played in the NHL since the 2012-13 season but did score at least 30 goals in nine of his 12 NHL seasons. If Kovalchuk were to sign with the Islanders, that could entice impending free agent John Tavares to re-sign with the organization as well.
The Rangers recently reached out to Kovalchuk about his interest in joining the squad, Cory Wilkins of theScore reports. Nothing can be acted on until free agency opens July 1, but this appears to be a good sign that Kovalchuk could end up back in North America next year. The 2001 first overall pick played 10 outstanding seasons in the NHL, racking up 417 goals and 816 points in 816 games before returning to his home country after the 2012-13 season to play in the KHL. It's unclear if Kovalchuk will be able to return to his former production, but the 35-year-old scored five goals and added two helpers to lead Russia to a gold medal in the 2018 Winter Olympics, which certainly helps his chances.
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