The Los Angeles Kings tore through the 2012 postseason, completing their first-ever championship with a 6-1 win in Game 6 against the New Jersey Devils on Monday. Mike Halford and Jason Brough discuss their favorite stories from that run and wonder which Cup-less team might finally win one (like the Kings did) next.This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
2018-19 NHL on NBC Schedule Features Most Games Since NBC Sports Acquired Rights Prior to 2005-06 Season
New “Wednesday Night Hockey” on NBCSN to Showcase Its Most Diverse Exclusive Schedule to Date and NHL’s Rising Stars
2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic Features Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins on Jan. 1 on NBC from Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Ind.
NBC Sports Presents 2019 NHL All-Star Game from San Jose, Calif., Live in Primetime on Broadcast Television for First Time Since 1997
NBC Sports is scheduled to present 109 NHL regular-season games during the 2018-19 season – its most since acquiring NHL rights prior to the 2005-06 season. Coverage begins Wednesday, Oct. 3, at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, when Alex Ovechkin and the Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals raise their championship banner to the rafters and host the Boston Bruins. All games will be streamed live on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app to authenticated users via TV Everywhere.
NBC Sports’ 2018-19 NHL schedule is highlighted by the debut of “Wednesday Night Hockey” on NBCSN, which will showcase the network’s most diverse schedule since it acquired NHL rights prior to the 2005-06 season, as well as NHL’s current and rising stars. Highlights of NBC Sports’ “Wednesday Night Hockey” schedule on NBCSN include:
- Doubleheaders – 17 of 25 “Wednesday Night Hockey” showcases on NBCSN will be doubleheaders, the most in the network’s history, with a nearly equal balance of Eastern and Western Conference teams;
- Star Power – Established stars and young phenoms will take center stage on “Wednesday Night Hockey,” highlighted by multiple appearances from the likes of Alex Ovechkin (WSH), Marc-Andre Fleury (VGK), Sidney Crosby (PIT), Patrick Kane (CHI), P.K. Subban (NSH), Patrice Bergeron (BOS), Steven Stamkos (TBL), Claude Giroux (PHI) Connor McDavid (EDM), Patrik Laine (WPG), Auston Matthews (TOR), Henrik Lundqvist, (NYR), Johnny Gaudreau (CGY), Joe Pavelski (SJS), Jonathan Quick (LAK), and Nathan MacKinnon (COL);
- Diverse schedule – “Wednesday Night Hockey” will feature NBCSN’s widest variety of teams to date on Wednesday nights, including multiple appearances by Tampa Bay, Colorado, Toronto, Vegas, Edmonton, Nashville, and Winnipeg. The defending champion Washington Capitals lead all teams with eight “Wednesday Night Hockey” appearances;
- Earlier start times – While some games will begin at 8 p.m. ET, the majority of “Wednesday Night Hockey” games and doubleheaders will begin at either 7 p.m. ET or 7:30 p.m. ET. On many occasions, coverage of the second game of “Wednesday Night Hockey” doubleheaders begins at 9:30 p.m. ET, earlier than past years.
“With the impressive growth of fan interest in non-traditional NHL markets combined with the emergence of a number of rising stars, we felt the time was right to broaden our Wednesday night schedule and evolve the brand,” said Sam Flood, Executive Producer and President, Production, NBC Sports and NBCSN. “Fans will still see plenty of games between traditional powers, but our new approach to Wednesday nights – including a record number of doubleheaders – allows us to show more rising stars and more Western Conference and Canadian teams than ever before.”
Following are highlights of NBC Sports’ 2018-19 NHL regular-season schedule:
- The season opens with a “Wednesday Night Hockey” doubleheader on Oct. 3 at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN as the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals host the Boston Bruins, followed by the Anaheim Ducks vs. San Jose Sharks at 10:30 p.m. ET;
- NBC Sports will present the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic between the Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks from iconic Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Ind., on Jan. 1, 2019, at 1 p.m. ET on NBC;
- NBC Sports will present exclusive primetime coverage of the 2019 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers from Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles, on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019 at 8 p.m. ET on NBC;
- NBC will present coverage of the 2019 NHL All-Star Weekend from SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., home of the San Jose Sharks, on Jan. 25-26, highlighted by live coverage of the All-Star Game on Saturday, Jan. 26, in primetime on NBC, the first time the All-Star Game will be televised live on a broadcast network since 1997;
- NBC Sports will present 13 NHL games on NBC, beginning with the 2018 Discover Thanksgiving Showdown on Friday, Nov, 23, when the Philadelphia Flyers host the New York Rangers;
- 67 of 110 scheduled regular-season games on NBC and NBCSN – more than 60% – will feature at least one Western Conference team.
NHL WINTER CLASSIC AND NHL STADIUM SERIES
On Jan. 1, the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic will feature the Boston Bruins and the Chicago Blackhawks from Notre Dame Stadium in Notre Dame, Ind., on NBC. The NHL Winter Classic has produced the five most-watched regular-season games in NHL history. The 2019 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series will feature the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers on Feb. 23 in primetime on NBC at Lincoln Financial Field, home of the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles.
WEDNESDAY NIGHT HOCKEY
NBCSN’s exclusive “Wednesday Night Hockey” coverage will feature the NHL’s established stars and young phenoms, and NBC Sports’ most diverse schedule to date. In addition, many “Wednesday Night Hockey” games and doubleheaders will feature earlier start times (7-7:30 p.m. ET). In many cases, Eastern Conference teams will be featured in the first game of the doubleheader, followed by a Western Conference matchup in the nightcap. Notable games on the “Wednesday Night Hockey” schedule include:
- October 10 – A 2018 Stanley Cup Final rematch between the Vegas Golden Knights and Washington Capitals;
- October 24 – Two of the best young stars in the NHL will clash when Auston Matthews and the Toronto Maple Leafs visit Patrik Laine and the Winnipeg Jets;
- January 23 – Ovechkin and the Capitals host Matthews and the Maple Leafs, followed by a battle out west between P.K. Subban and the Nashville Predators vs. Marc-Andre Fleury and the Golden Knights;
- February 13 – Three-time Stanley Cup champion Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins host Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers in Edmonton’s only visit to Pittsburgh;
- March 20 – A rematch of the 2018 Eastern Conference Final, as Ovechkin and the Capitals host Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning.
NBCSN 2018-19 NHL “Wednesday Night Hockey” schedule (subject to change):
|October 3*||Boston||Washington||7:30 p.m.|
|Anaheim||San Jose||10:30 p.m.|
|October 10||Vegas||Washington||8 p.m.|
|October 17||N.Y. Rangers||Washington||7 p.m.|
|October 24||Toronto||Winnipeg||7 p.m.|
|Tampa Bay||Colorado||9:30 p.m.|
|November 7||Pittsburgh||Washington||7:30 p.m.|
|November 14||St. Louis||Chicago||8 p.m.|
|November 28||St. Louis||Detroit||7 p.m.|
|December 5||Edmonton||St. Louis||8 p.m.|
|December 12||Pittsburgh||Chicago||8 p.m.|
|December 19||Pittsburgh||Washington||8 p.m.|
|January 2||Pittsburgh||N.Y. Rangers||7 p.m.|
|San Jose||Colorado||9:30 p.m.|
|January 9||Nashville||Chicago||8 p.m.|
|January 16||Boston||Philadelphia||7:30 p.m.|
|San Jose||Arizona||10 p.m.|
|January 23||Washington||Toronto||7:30 p.m.|
|January 30||Tampa Bay||Pittsburgh||8 p.m.|
|February 6||Boston||N.Y. Rangers||8 p.m.|
|February 13||Edmonton||Pittsburgh||8 p.m.|
|February 20||Chicago||Detroit||7:30 p.m.|
|February 27||Tampa Bay||N.Y. Rangers||7:30 p.m.|
|March 6||Washington||Philadelphia||7:30 p.m.|
|St. Louis||Anaheim||10 p.m.|
|March 13||Chicago||Toronto||7 p.m.|
|New Jersey||Edmonton||9:30 p.m.|
|March 20||Tampa Bay||Washington||7:30 p.m.|
|March 27||N.Y. Rangers||Boston||7:30 p.m.|
|April 3||St. Louis||Chicago||8 p.m.|
NBC SPORTS PRESENTS 2019 NHL ALL-STAR GAME LIVE IN PRIMETIME ON BROADCAST TELEVISION FOR FIRST TIME SINCE 1997
NBC and NBCSN will present extensive coverage of the 2019 NHL All-Star Weekend from SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., home of the San Jose Sharks, highlighted by the NHL All-Star Game in primetime on NBC on Saturday, Jan. 26, marking the first time the NHL All-Star Game will be shown in primetime on broadcast television since 1997. NHL All-Star will take place January 25-26, 2019, and will include the NHL All-Star Skills Competition™ on Friday, Jan. 25, on NBCSN. Last year’s NHL All-Star Game in Tampa, Fla., was the third consecutive All-Star Game to feature the popular 3-on-3 tournament style format.
NHL ON NBC
NHL on NBC coverage begins on Friday, Nov. 23, at 1 p.m. ET, with the 2018 Discover NHL Thanksgiving Showdown featuring the New York Rangers and the Philadelphia Flyers, marking the first of 13 games scheduled to air on NBC during the regular season. Beginning on Jan. 20, and continuing through the end of the regular season, NBC will present the NHL Game of the Week, generally occurring on Sunday afternoons. Following is the 2018-19 NHL on NBC regular season schedule:
|Fri., Nov. 23#||N.Y. Rangers||Philadelphia||1 p.m.|
|Tues., Jan. 1*||Boston||Chicago||1 p.m.|
|Sun., Jan. 20||Washington||Chicago||12:30 p.m.|
|Sat., Feb. 2||Tampa Bay||N.Y. Rangers||8 p.m.|
|Sat., Feb. 2||Minnesota||Chicago||8 p.m.|
|Sun., Feb. 3||Boston||Washington||12:30 p.m.|
|Sun., Feb. 10||St. Louis||Nashville||12:30 p.m.|
|Sun., Feb. 17||N.Y. Rangers||Pittsburgh||12:30 p.m.|
|Sun., Feb. 17||St. Louis||Minnesota||3 p.m.|
|Sat., Feb. 23^||Pittsburgh||Philadelphia||8 p.m.|
|Sun., March 3||Washington||N.Y. Rangers||12:30 p.m.|
|Sun., March 24||Philadelphia||Washington||12:30 p.m.|
|Sun., March 31||N.Y. Rangers||Philadelphia||12:30 p.m.|
#2018 Discover NHL Thanksgiving Showdown; *2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic; ^2019 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series
NHL ON NBCSN
NBCSN will televise at least 96 NHL regular-season games this season, including the Opening Night doubleheader, 40 “Wednesday Night Hockey” games, and 21 doubleheaders, as well as NHL All-Star coverage from San Jose, Calif. In addition, NBC Sports has left the majority of the final week of the regular season on NBCSN open to allow for the biggest games with playoff implications to be added to the schedule.
NHL LIVE AND NHL OVERTIME
NHL Live and NHL Overtime, NBC Sports’ live pre- and post-game show with highlights and analysis of NHL matchups, will air before and after most games on NBCSN. A 60-minute edition of NHL Live will air prior to most games, while NHL Overtime will air immediately following most games.
STREAMING COVERAGE ON NBCSPORTS.COM AND THE NBC SPORTS APP
NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app — NBC Sports Group’s live streaming platforms for desktops, mobile devices, tablets, and connected TVs — will provide live streaming coverage of the Stanley Cup Playoffs via “TV Everywhere,” giving consumers additional value for their subscription service, and making high quality content available to MVPD customers both in and out of the home and on multiple platforms.
NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app are powered by Playmaker Media and available on the iTunes App Store, Google Play, Windows Store, Roku Channel Store, Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Samsung Smart TVs, Xbox, and Chromecast.
NBC Sports Group 2018-19 NHL regular-season schedule (subject to change):
|Wed., Oct 3||Boston||Washington||NBCSN||7:30 p.m.|
|Anaheim||San Jose||NBCSN||10:30 p.m.|
|Thur., Oct. 4||Nashville||N.Y. Rangers||NBCSN||7:30 p.m.|
|Tues., Oct. 9||San Jose||Philadelphia||NBCSN||7:30 p.m.|
|Wed., Oct. 10||Vegas||Washington||NBCSN||8 p.m.|
|Tues., Oct. 16||Arizona||Minnesota||NBCSN||8 p.m.|
|Wed., Oct. 17||N.Y. Rangers||Washington||NBCSN||7 p.m.|
|Fri., Oct. 19||Minnesota||Dallas||NBCSN||8 p.m.|
|Tues., Oct. 23||San Jose||Nashville||NBCSN||8 p.m.|
|Wed., Oct. 24||Toronto||Winnipeg||NBCSN||7 p.m.|
|Tampa Bay||Colorado||NBCSN||9:30 p.m.|
|Tues., Oct. 30||Vegas||Nashville||NBCSN||8 p.m.|
|Thur., Nov. 1||Winnipeg||Florida||NBCSN||2 p.m.|
|Tues., Nov. 6||Edmonton||Tampa Bay||NBCSN||7:30 p.m.|
|Wed., Nov. 7||Pittsburgh||Washington||NBCSN||7:30 p.m.|
|Tues., Nov. 13||Tampa Bay||Buffalo||NBCSN||7:30 p.m.|
|Wed., Nov. 14||St. Louis||Chicago||NBCSN||8 p.m.|
|Tues., Nov. 20||Edmonton||San Jose||NBCSN||10:30 p.m.|
|Wed., Nov. 21||Philadelphia||Buffalo||NBCSN||7:30 p.m.|
|Fri., Nov. 23||N.Y. Rangers||Philadelphia||NBC||1 p.m.|
|Chicago||Tampa Bay||NBCSN||7:30 p.m.|
|Tues., Nov. 27||Vegas||Chicago||NBCSN||8 p.m.|
|Wed., Nov. 28||St. Louis||Detroit||NBCSN||7 p.m.|
|Tues., Dec. 4||Toronto||Buffalo||NBCSN||7:30 p.m.|
|Wed., Dec. 5||Edmonton||St. Louis||NBCSN||8 p.m.|
|Tues., Dec. 11||Detroit||Washington||NBCSN||7:30 p.m.|
|Wed., Dec. 12||Pittsburgh||Chicago||NBCSN||8 p.m.|
|Tues., Dec. 18||Nashville||Chicago||NBCSN||8:30 p.m.|
|Wed., Dec. 19||Pittsburgh||Washington||NBCSN||8 p.m.|
|Fri., Dec. 21||Buffalo||Washington||NBCSN||7 p.m.|
|Thur., Dec. 27||Philadelphia||Tampa Bay||NBCSN||7:30 p.m.|
|Tues., Jan. 1||Boston||Chicago||NBC||1 p.m.|
|Wed., Jan. 2||Pittsburgh||N.Y. Rangers||NBCSN||7 p.m.|
|San Jose||Colorado||NBCSN||9:30 p.m.|
|Thur., Jan. 3||Chicago||N.Y. Islanders||NBCSN||7:30 p.m.|
|Sun., Jan. 6||Chicago||Pittsburgh||NBCSN||8 p.m.|
|Tues., Jan. 8||Philadelphia||Washington||NBCSN||7:30 p.m.|
|Wed., Jan. 9||Nashville||Chicago||NBCSN||8 p.m.|
|Thur., Jan. 10||Winnipeg||Minnesota||NBCSN||8 p.m.|
|Mon., Jan. 14||Montreal||Boston||NBCSN||7:30 p.m.|
|Tues., Jan. 15||Los Angeles||Minnesota||NBCSN||8 p.m.|
|Wed., Jan. 16||Boston||Philadelphia||NBCSN||7:30 p.m.|
|San Jose||Arizona||NBCSN||10 p.m.|
|Thur., Jan. 17||Chicago||N.Y. Rangers||NBCSN||7 p.m.|
|Sun., Jan. 20||Washington||Chicago||NBC||12:30 p.m.|
|Mon., Jan. 21||St. Louis||Los Angeles||NBCSN||4 p.m.|
|Tues., Jan. 22||Detroit||Edmonton||NBCSN||9 p.m.|
|Wed., Jan. 23||Washington||Toronto||NBCSN||7:30 p.m.|
|Mon., Jan. 28||Winnipeg||Philadelphia||NBCSN||7 p.m.|
|Tues., Jan. 29||Philadelphia||N.Y. Rangers||NBCSN||7:30 p.m.|
|Wed., Jan. 30||Tampa Bay||Pittsburgh||NBCSN||8 p.m.|
|Sat., Feb. 2||Tampa Bay||N.Y. Rangers||NBC||8 p.m.|
|Sun., Feb. 3||Boston||Washington||NBC||12:30 p.m.|
|Wed., Feb. 6||Boston||N.Y. Rangers||NBCSN||8 p.m.|
|Sun., Feb. 10||St. Louis||Nashville||NBC||12:30 p.m.|
|Toronto||N.Y. Rangers||NBCSN||7 p.m.|
|Mon., Feb. 11||Pittsburgh||Philadelphia||NBCSN||7 p.m.|
|Tues., Feb. 12||Chicago||Boston||NBCSN||7 p.m.|
|Wed., Feb. 13||Edmonton||Pittsburgh||NBCSN||8 p.m.|
|Sun., Feb. 17||N.Y. Rangers||Pittsburgh||NBC||12:30 p.m.|
|St. Louis||Minnesota||NBC||3 p.m.|
|Mon., Feb. 18||Tampa Bay||Columbus||NBCSN||7:30 p.m.|
|Boston||San Jose||NBCSN||10 p.m.|
|Tues., Feb. 19||Toronto||St. Louis||NBCSN||8 p.m.|
|Wed., Feb. 20||Chicago||Detroit||NBCSN||7:30 p.m.|
|Thur., Feb. 21||Los Angeles||Nashville||NBCSN||8 p.m.|
|Sat., Feb. 23||Pittsburgh||Philadelphia||NBC||8 p.m.|
|Sun., Feb. 24||St. Louis||Minnesota||NBCSN||7 p.m.|
|Mon., Feb. 25||Los Angeles||Tampa Bay||NBCSN||7:30 p.m.|
|Tues., Feb. 26||Buffalo||Philadelphia||NBCSN||7 p.m.|
|Wed., Feb. 27||Tampa Bay||N.Y. Rangers||NBCSN||7:30 p.m.|
|Thur., Feb. 28||Tampa Bay||Boston||NBCSN||7:30 p.m.|
|Sun., March 3||Washington||N.Y. Rangers||NBC||12:30 p.m.|
|Tues., March 5||Minnesota||Nashville||NBCSN||8 p.m.|
|Wed., March 6||Washington||Philadelphia||NBCSN||7:30 p.m.|
|St. Louis||Anaheim||NBCSN||10 p.m.|
|Thur., March 7||Columbus||Pittsburgh||NBCSN||7 p.m.|
|Sun., March 10||Boston||Pittsburgh||NBCSN||7:30 p.m.|
|Los Angeles||Anaheim||NBCSN||10 p.m.|
|Mon., March 11||San Jose||Minnesota||NBCSN||8 p.m.|
|Tues., March 12||Washington||Pittsburgh||NBCSN||7 p.m.|
|Wed., March 13||Chicago||Toronto||NBCSN||7 p.m.|
|New Jersey||Edmonton||NBCSN||9:30 p.m.|
|Sun., March 17||Philadelphia||Pittsburgh||NBCSN||7:30 p.m.|
|Tues., March 19||Washington||New Jersey||NBCSN||7:30 p.m.|
|Wed., March 20||Tampa Bay||Washington||NBCSN||7:30 p.m.|
|Sun., March 24||Philadelphia||Washington||NBC||12:30 p.m.|
|Mon., March 25||Nashville||Minnesota||NBCSN||8 p.m.|
|Tues., March 26||Carolina||Washington||NBCSN||7 p.m.|
|Wed., March 27||N.Y. Rangers||Boston||NBCSN||7:30 p.m.|
|Sun., March 31||N.Y. Rangers||Philadelphia||NBC||12:30 p.m.|
|Wed., April 3||St. Louis||Chicago||NBCSN||8 p.m.|
*Some games will be blacked out in local markets and televised in those markets by a regional carrier.
Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to focusing on a player coming off a breakthrough year to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Los Angeles Kings.
Since 2013-14, Ilya Kovalchuk has been plying his trade in the KHL instead of the NHL. Really, with the year before including the abysmal, lockout-shortened campaign, we haven’t really seen much of Kovalchuk at this level since helping the Devils reach the 2012 Stanley Cup Final.
For fans of beautiful hockey, such thoughts are borderline offensive.
That said, Kovalchuk gave fans a lot to enjoy over 816 NHL regular-season games, even if many of those contests happened on some crummy Atlanta Thrashers teams. While there’s a lot of “what could have been?” with Kovalchuk, it’s also fitting that he left the NHL with exactly as many points (816) as games played.
The Los Angeles Kings make a lot of sense as the team he’ll return to the NHL with, too.
Most obviously, and also the point of most pressure, is that the Kings need Kovalchuk. They really need a shot in the arm, so landing arguably the most lethal shooter of his generation might just do that.
Yes, the Kings surprised many by making the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, even with Jeff Carter – the closest player they had to a Kovalchukian sniper – mostly on the shelf in 2017-18.
That’s great, but it only does so much to mask recent struggles. After all, the Kings were swept from the first round, have only won one playoff game since winning the 2014 Stanley Cup, and have missed the postseason altogether in two of the last four seasons.
Kovalchuk and the Kings are bonded by a scary question: “How much do they have left?”
The good news is that Kovalchuk performed well during his KHL sojourn, and seemed to be his usual self in international competition. Still, the aging curve can be especially unkind to snipers, and Kovalchuk’s a 35-year-old who’s been playing a lot of hockey considering he jumped straight from being the top pick of the 2001 NHL Draft to full-time duty with Atlanta in 2001-02.
At least his confidence hasn’t wavered all that much, as PHT’s Sean Leahy noted after Kovalchuk came to terms with the Kings.
“When I was making my decision, it was all about hockey because I have three or four years left in my tank where I can really play at a high level,” Kovalchuk said. “L.A. has a great group of guys. Like I said, great goaltending, great defense, and they have one of the best centers in the league. I never had a chance to play with those kinds of guys, so it’s really exciting for me. It’s great.”
The situation he’ll be in with the Kings could make a big impact on how seamless his transition back to the NHL might be.
During Kovalchuk’s days with the Devils, he’d log a jaw-dropping amount of ice time (we’re talking “deployment usually reserved for top defensemen”-type stuff), and that would often mean spending tons of time playing the point on the power play. Los Angeles seems to have a simple-and-wise plan for Kovalchuk, considering his age and world-class shot: put him in Alex Ovechkin‘s “office.”
“We just want him to do exactly what [Alex] Ovechkin does,” Luc Robitaille said to The Athletic’s Lisa Dillman during draft weekend (sub required).
While we’ll have to see if it works in practice, this is a really bright idea on paper.
Speaking of things that make sense, at least in our minds, Kovalchuk and Anze Kopitar could form a symbiotic relationship that could pay big dividends for the Kings.
Kopitar would rank as Kovalchuk’s best center in ages, if ever, at the NHL level. Meanwhile, Kovalchuk presents a dramatic skill boost for Kopitar, who put up an incredible effort lugging Dustin Brown and Alex Iafallo last season.
(All due respect to Brown’s bounce-back efforts and Iafallo’s scrappy work, but Kovalchuk presents a tantalizing upgrade. Ideally.)
Kovalchuk’s contract is another interesting element to this situation.
He could very well be a huge bargain, considering his skills at a fairly modest $6.25 million cap hit. Kovalchuk surely could have held out for more dollars, particularly on a shorter contract, but he made it clear that he wanted to compete too. (Granted, the sunny climes of Los Angeles probably didn’t hurt, either.)
On the other hand, Kovalchuk counts as a 35+ contract, so this could get ugly if it’s clear that the NHL game passed him by in a stark way.
If onlookers give Kovalchuk a fair shake as a talented player whose age will probably limit his all-around abilities, and maybe open the door for the normally-sturdy winger to maybe deal with the occasional injury, then this could be a happy marriage.
Talented players like Kovalchuk often open the door for out-sized expectations, and harsh criticisms, however, so this one could go either way.
Whatever happens, Kovalchuk makes this Kings team a lot more intriguing in 2018-19.
Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to focusing on a player coming off a breakthrough year to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Los Angeles Kings.
When people think of the Los Angeles Kings, they often think of an aging team.
That’s fair, but the Kings have been able to unearth some solid young talent, too. Adrian Kempe is one of those key players, and the hope is that the best is yet to come for the 21-year-old Swede.
After going without a point in his first five games of 2017-18, Kempe exploded against the Montreal Canadiens on Oct. 18, generating his first NHL hat trick and adding an assist.
That began a run of nine points over five games, signaling to the NHL that Kempe was a player you’d need to game plan for, and not just because of his speed. As Curtis Zupke reported for the Los Angeles Times in November, Kings management was taking notice of his leap forward.
“He has the trust of the coaches, but we’re starting to see, to be honest with you, I can start to see some plays that we haven’t even seen,” Kings assistant general manager Mike Futa said. “It’s a testimony to how hard he’s working. … If we can start to mix in some North American muddy goals with that, that’s when your stats start to look different.”
Kempe brings things to the table that the Kings crave: youth, speed, and swagger.
Still, to tweak Futa’s phrase, the Kings would like to see certain stats look different.
Despite the considerable advantage of beginning 68.3 percent of his shifts in the attacking zone, Kempe’s possession stats were still pretty ugly. While analytics types will be disappointed in those numbers, old-school hockey people would be unhappy to see that he only won 38.5 percent of his draws.
So, yes, it’s promising that Kempe scored 16 goals and 37 points in 81 games last season, particularly since he only averaged 13:20 TOI. You can’t really blame a Kings fan for imagining the former first-rounder (29th overall in 2014) reaching even greater heights.
At minimum, Kempe could conceivably be given more reps on the power play. He averaged 1:07 PP TOI per game, far behind quite a few other Los Angeles forwards (injuries to Jeff Carter and Michael Cammalleri’s brief time in Los Angeles skew things a bit). Kempe rode some high percentages at times in 2017-18, yet getting more shifts on the man advantage could help him at least achieve similar stats, even if his luck levels out.
Of course, more ice time tends to come with better all-around play, so Kempe needs to clean up his two-way game if he hopes to see a significant increase in shifts. There also could be some challenges in getting those “offensive specialist” nods with the addition of Ilya Kovalchuk and possibly a healthier season for Carter.
Either way, Kempe’s a player to watch for the Kings, and possibly a crucial one when it comes to the team’s ability to remain viable as core players age.
The Nashville Predators locked up another defenseman long-term as they agreed to an eight-year, $50 million extension with Ryan Ellis.
“Ryan is a huge part of our team on and off the ice and we are happy to have his leadership remain in our locker room for the foreseeable future,” said Predators general manager David Poile. “We have talked about wanting to keep the core of our team together, and this is another opportunity to help us do so while continuing to compete for a Stanley Cup. Ryan is entering his prime and is one of the reasons why we feel this team has a chance to win every time we step on the ice.”
Ellis is entering the final year of his current contract, which means he’s now tied to the Predators through the end of the 2026-27 NHL season. He’s now one of three defensemen on the team signed beyond the 2020-21 season.
That’s a pretty picture right there if you’re Poile, Peter Laviolette or a Predators fan. Arguably the best top-four in the league are signed for the next two seasons, which will again see the team on the short-list of Stanley Cup contenders. When you’re able to retain core pieces on very team-friendly deals, that’s how you build a group that can keep its elite status on an annual basis.
After returning from off-season knee surgery, Ellis was terrific over the final 44 games of the season. He scored nine goals and recorded 32 points while averaging over 23 minutes a night. He was Nashville’s best defenseman possession-wise with a 55 percent Corsi and was only behind Mattias Eklholm in Relative Corsi (4.63), per Corsica. He is dependable and productive and showed no ill effects from the injury.
The Predators will likely be among the leagues stingiest defenses in 2018-19 and Ellis plays a big part in that.
The NHL’s off-season is under way and with free agency beginning July 1 there will be plenty of action this summer. Check back here for all of the trades and signings that teams will be making in hopes of improving their chances at winning the 2018-19 Stanley Cup.
• Noah Dobson signs his three-year, entry-level deal with the Islanders. (Link)
• Matt Read joins the Wild on a two-way deal. One-year, $650,000. (Link)
• David Rittich, Calgary Flames agree to one-year, $800,000 contract. (Link)
• Dan Hamhuis returns to the Predators with a two-year, $2.5 million deal. (Link)
• Troy Stetcher and the Canucks agree to a two-year, $4.65 million extension. (Link)
• The Edmonton Oilers sign their 2018 first-round pick Evan Bouchard to an entry-level deal. (Link)
• Philip Danult re-signs with the Canadiens. Thee years, $9.249 million. (Link)
• The Blackhawks send the contract of Marian Hossa’s contract, Vinnie Hinostroza, Jordan Oesterle and a 2019 third-rounder to the Coyotes for Marcus Kruger, Jordan Maletta, Andrew Campbell, MacKenzie Entwistle’s rights and a 2019 fifth-rounder. (Link)
• Alex Lyon re-signs in Philadelphia. Two years, $1.5 million. (Link)
• Oscar Dansk re-signs with the Vegas Golden Knights. Two years, $1.35 million total. (Link)
• The Dallas Stars re-sign Jason Dickinson to a one-year, $875,000 contract. (Link)
• The Buffalo Sabres send Ryan O'Reilly to the St. Louis Blues for a 2019 first-rounder, 2021 second-rounder, forwards Tage Thompson, Patrik Berglund, and Vladimir Sobotka. The Blues also pick up O’Reilly’s $7.5 million signing bonus. (Link)
• After two seasons in the KHL, Val Nichushkin returns to Dallas with a two-year, $5.9 million deal. (Link)
• The Bruins, Sabres Stars find backups with Jaroslav Halak (two years, $5.5 million) headed to Boston, Anton Khudobin (two years, $5 million) on his way to Dallas and Carter Hutton (three years, $8.25 million) going to Buffalo.
• Winnipeg Jets clear valuable cap space by shipping Steve Mason to Montreal Canadiens. (Link)
• Capitals name Todd Reirden as Barry Trotz’s replacement. (Link)
• Carolina Hurricanes re-sign Valentin Zykov with two-year, $1.35 million contract. (Link)
• Penguins hand one-year, $650,000 deal to J.S. Dea. (Link)
• Penguins re-sign Riley Sheahan to $2.1 million, 1-year deal. (Link)
• Ottawa Senators buy out final year Alex Burrows’s contract. (Link)
• Sam Morin gets three-year, $2.1 million extension from Philadelphia Flyers. (Link)