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Kovalchuk agrees to terms with Kings

Forward returns to NHL, can sign three-year contract July 1

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

DALLAS -- Ilya Kovalchuk agreed to terms on a three-year contract with the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday. The 35-year-old forward can sign a contract July 1, when he officially becomes an unrestricted free agent.

Kings president Luc Robitaille said there are details being worked out in the contract. Financial terms were not disclosed.

 

[RELATED: Fantasy projection for Kovalchuk with Kings]

 

Kovalchuk hasn't played in the NHL since the 2012-13 season, when he had 31 points (11 goals, 20 assists) in 37 games with the New Jersey Devils. He retired from the NHL on July 11, 2013.

He played the past five seasons with SKA St. Petersburg in the Kontinental Hockey League and was a three-time KHL all-star (2015-17). He led the league with 63 points (31 goals, 32 assists) in 53 games this season and helped SKA St. Petersburg win the Gagarin Cup in 2015 (when he was named MVP) and in 2017 .

"We needed a shooter," Robitaille told NHL.com at the 2018 NHL Draft. "We know he's a goal-scorer and we're not hiding it from anyone, we haven't scored goals in the last few years."

Video: Robitaille on Kovalchuk signing, Kings' scouts

The Kings ranked 16th in the NHL in goals per game this season (2.89). They are 22nd in four seasons (2.67) since winning their second Stanley Cup championship in 2014.

"We're not giving up any prospects and we get a player who is still in great shape and has been dominating the last few years," Robitaille said. "So we feel like this guy can play with us, especially when you look and you have [center Anze] Kopitar and [center] Jeff Carter and [defenseman Drew] Doughty. So he's in our window and we feel like he can help us right now."

Robitaille said he thinks Kovalchuk can play with either Kopitar or Carter.

"He still takes the puck hard to the net and that's the one thing we're not doing as good as we want to," Robitaille said. "So we feel from that standpoint he's going to help."

Robitaille said the Kings are not concerned about Kovalchuk's skating ability as a 35-year-old who hasn't played in the NHL, which is getting younger and faster, in five years.

"We watched him a lot last year and he's still an explosive player, he jumps into holes," Robitaille said. "That's the way the game is played."

The Atlanta Thrashers selected Kovalchuk No. 1 in the 2002 NHL Draft. He has 816 points (417 goals, 399 assists) in 816 NHL games (11 seasons) with the Thrashers and Devils, and has 27 points (11 goals, 16 assists) in 32 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Kovalchuk scored 52 goals in 2005-06 and 2007-08. He won the Rocket Richard Trophy (most goals in a season) in 2003-04, when he scored 41 (tied with Rick Nash of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Jarome Iginla of the Calgary Flames). 

Kovalchuk scored at least 30 goals nine times in the NHL and scored at least 40 goals five times.

Kovalchuk, who was traded to the Devils on Feb. 4, 2010, had 83 points (37 goals, 46 assists) in 77 games during the 2011-12 season and tied for the playoff lead with eight goals to help New Jersey advance to the Stanley Cup Final, when they lost to the Kings in six games.

He signed a 15-year, $100 million contract with the Devils on Sept. 4, 2010 and played three seasons before retiring and moving to Russia.

"We are excited to add Ilya to the L.A. Kings organization," general manager Rob Blake said. "He gives us an added element of skill and scoring along with a desire to win. We will withhold further comment until July 1."

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