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Kings Sign Kovalchuk for 15 Years

by Staff Writer / Los Angeles Kings
LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Kings have agreed to terms on a 15-year contract with unrestricted All-Star free agent left wing Ilya Kovalchuk, Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi announced Thursday.

Kovalchuk is a two-time 50-goal scorer and a three-time All-Star. He is also the only player in the NHL to score 40-plus goals each of the last six seasons, and he has scored more goals (338) than anyone else in the NHL since breaking into the league in 2001-02.

“Ilya is another key piece here in the building process and we look forward to him helping elevate our club with his desire to win and to be a great teammate,” said Lombardi. “He is obviously a very gifted and talented offensive player who fits a need that we have for a scoring winger. We are looking forward to him coming to Los Angeles and joining our club.”

Kovalchuk, 27, was originally the first overall selection by the Atlanta Thrashers in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft. In 621 career NHL regular season games with the Thrashers and the New Jersey Devils, he has recorded 642 points (338-304=642), including 117 career power play goals and 52 multiple-goal games over the course of his eight seasons. He has also played in nine career NHL playoff games with two teams, totaling eight points (3-5=8) in nine games.

The Kings have never had a player who was the first overall selection in the NHL Entry Draft play for the club. The last Kings player to score 40 goals in a season was Luc Robitaille in 1993-94 and the last Kings player to score 50 goals was Robitaille in 1992-93.

The 15-year contract is the longest contract in Kings history and the only current NHL contract that extends through the 2024-25 season. Kovalchuk’s contract with the Kings is also believed to be one of nine current NHL contracts of at least 11 years, and only Kovalchuk and New York Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro have signed for at least 15 years (DiPietro’s 15-year contract started in 2006-07 and at the time of the signing was the second longest contract in team sports history behind Magic Johnson’s 25-year deal with the Lakers beginning 1981).

Wayne Gretzky signed an eight-year contract in 1988 (after the first year the contract was extended from seven years to nine years) and that was the longest contract in Kings history until Thursday. Anze Kopitar in 2008 signed a seven-year contract extension that will carry into the 2015-16 season and Dustin Brown in 2007 signed a six-year contract extension.

The 6-2, 230-pound native of Tver, Russia, has played in three NHL All-Star Games (2004, 2008 and 2009) and is a former Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy co-winner for most goals (2004) who has averaged 42 goals, 80 points and 78 games played during his career. Kovalchuk was also named a Second Team NHL All-Star in 2004 and he made the NHL’s All-Rookie Team in 2002.

Kovalchuk hit the 40-goal mark for the sixth straight time in his career while skating with the Thrashers and Devils during the 2009-10 season. His 41 goals ranked sixth in the league and his 85 points tied for 11th in scoring. His totals with New Jersey included 27 points (10-17=27) in 27 regular season games after the Devils acquired him from Atlanta along with defenseman Anssi Salmela for defenseman Johnny Oduya, forward Niclas Bergfors, center Patrice Cormier and New Jersey’s first round pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. The two teams also swapped 2010 second round picks as part of the deal struck on February 4, 2010. Prior to his trade to the Devils, Kovalchuk collected 58 points (31-27=58) in 49 regular season games with the Thrashers.

Kovalchuk and the Devils advanced to the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs before losing to Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. In five postseason games, Kovalchuk amassed six points (2-4=6) and one power play goal. His six points led the Devils and his two goals tied for the team lead.

Kovalchuk posted a team high 91 points (43-48=91) in 79 regular season games with the Thrashers during the 2008-09 season while earning his third trip to the NHL’s All-Star Game. His 43 goals ranked fourth in the league and his 91 points tied for sixth. He also set a new career high with 48 assists that season while being named the Thrashers MVP for the fifth time in his career. After being named captain of the Thrashers in January of 2009, Kovalchuk closed the season with 48 points (27-21=48) in his final 36 regular season games.

Kovalchuk matched his career high with 52 goals during the 2007-08 season, and his goal total ranked second best in the league. His 87 points (52-35=87) led the Thrashers and ranked 10th in league scoring. The 2007-08 season also included a second appearance in the NHL’s All-Star Game – this time at Philips Arena - and a fourth Thrashers MVP award.

In 2006-07, Kovalchuk scored 42 goals (eighth in the league) while appearing in a career high 82 regular season games. He also added 34 assists for 76 points (42-34=76). He also led the Thrashers and ranked third in the league with 18 power play goals, and he tied a career mark with seven game-winning goals. At the conclusion of the 2006-07 regular season, Kovalchuk made his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut, totaling one goal and two points (1-1=2) in four postseason games vs. the New York Rangers.

Kovalchuk’s 2005-06 season included a career high 98 points (52-46=98) as he passed the 50-goal plateau for the first time in his career. His 27 power play goals that season were a league high and they remain a career high for Kovalchuk, who also notched seven game-winning goals that season and shared the Thrashers’ MVP award. Additionally, Kovalchuk finished the season tied for third in league goals (52) and eighth in league scoring (98) while also setting two new career highs: one with four goals in one game (November 11, 2005 vs. Tampa Bay); and one with a seven-game goal streak (January 1-13, 2006) while totaling 11 goals during the streak.

With 41 regular season goals in 2003-04, Kovalchuk tied for the league lead and shared the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy with Jarome Iginla (Calgary) and Rick Nash (Columbus). He notched his 100th career goal that season (February 21 at Philadelphia), becoming the fifth youngest player in league history to reach that milestone. He was also named an NHL Second Team All-Star that season with 87 points (41-46=87) and he made his first appearance in the NHL’s All-Star Game after leading the entire Eastern Conference in fan voting. His 87 points that season tied for second in the league. He also was named Thrashers MVP for a second time.

Kovalchuk ranked second on the Thrashers with 38 goals in 2002-03, and third with 67 points (38-29=67). He also ranked second on the team with nine power play goals. Kovalchuk recorded the first of his 11 career hat tricks that season while sharing the team’s MVP award.

Kovalchuk’s NHL career began in 2001-02. That season, he led the Thrashers and all NHL rookies with 29 goals despite playing in only 65 regular season games. For his efforts he was named to the NHL’s All-Rookie Team. He also placed second in Calder Memorial Trophy voting (awarded to best rookie) to then teammate Dany Heatley and he was named MVP of the YoungStars Game as part of the 2002 NHL All-Star Game festivities.

Kovalchuk has represented Russia in 14 international tournaments, including three Winter Olympics (2010, 2006, 2002), seven World Championships (2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2005, 2004, 2003), one World Cup of Hockey (2004), one World Junior Championships (2001) and two World Under-18 Championships (2001, 2000). He’s earned three gold medals (2009 and 2008 World Championships and the 2001 World Under-18 Championships), two silver medals (2010 World Championships and 2000 World Under-18 Championships) and three bronze medals (2007 and 2005 World Championships and 2002 Winter Olympics). Kovalchuk was named MVP of the 2009 World Championships after leading Russia with 14 points (5-9=14) in nine games en route to a second consecutive gold medal. He also scored the gold medal-winning goal for Russia in overtime at the 2008 World Championships.

Career Regular Season Statistics
Season Team GP G A P +/- PIM PP SH GW S S%
1999-2000 Spartak Moscow-Russia-2 49 12 5 17 75
1999-2000 Spartak Moscow 2-Russia-3 2 2 1 3 14
1999-2000 Russia-WJ18-A 6 2 3 5 6
2000-2001 Spartak Moscow-Russia-2 40 28 18 46 78
2000-2001 Russia-WJC-A 7 4 2 6 37
2000-2001 Russia-WJ18-A 6 11 4 15 26
2001-2002 Thrashers 65 29 22 51 -19 28 7 0 4 184 15.8
2001-2002 Russia-Olympics 6 1 2 3 14
2002-2003 Thrashers 81 38 29 67 -24 57 9 0 3 257 14.8
2002-2003 Russia-WC-A 7 4 0 4 6
2003-2004 Thrashers 81 41 46 87 -10 63 16 1 6 341 12.0
2003-2004 Russia-WC-A 6 3 1 4 6
2004-2005 Russia-W-Cup 4 1 0 1 -4 4
2004-2005 Ak Bars Kazan-Russia 53 19 23 42 72
2004-2005 Russia-WC-A 9 3 3 6 4
2005-2006 Thrashers 78 52 46 98 -6 68 27 0 7 323 16.1
2005-2006 Russia-Olympics 8 4 1 5 31
2006-2007 Thrashers 82 42 34 76 -2 66 18 0 7 336 12.5
2006-2007 Russia-WC-A 9 2 5 7 10
2007-2008 Thrashers 79 52 35 87 -12 52 16 2 4 283 18.4
2007-2008 Russia-WC-A 8 2 6 8 52
2008-2009 Thrashers 79 43 48 91 -12 50 12 0 6 275 15.6
2008-2009 Russia-WC-A 9 5 9 14 4
2009-2010 Thrashers 49 31 27 58 1 45 10 0 3 179 17.3
2009-2010 Devils 27 10 17 27 9 8 2 0 1 111 9.0
NHL Totals 621 338 304 642 -75 437 117 3 41 2,289 14.8
Career Playoff Statistics
Season Team GP G A P +/- PIM PP SH GW S S%
2000-2001 Spartak Moscow-Russia-2 12 14 4 18 0 38 0.0
2004-2005 Ak Bars Kazan-Russia 4 0 1 1 0
2006-2007 Thrashers 4 1 1 2 -1 19 0 0 0 12 8.3
2006-2007 Russia-WC-A 0 0 0.0
2007-2008 Russia-WC-A 0 0 0.0
2009-2010 Devils 5 2 4 6 0 6 1 0 0 19 10.5
NHL Totals 9 3 5 8 -1 25 1 0 0 31 9.7
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