For the Los Angeles Kings, the optics would be doubly terrible if Slava Voynov were ever to play for them again.
Not only would they be allowing a player who spent time in jail for domestic violence to wear their sweater, they’d be allowing it to happen after terminating the contract of Mike Richards, who while reportedly part of a police investigation has still not been charged with anything.
The difference between Voynov and Richards is that the former is an on-ice asset, with a reasonable contract, while the latter became a liability, with a big cap hit and term to go.
There’s already local media pressure on the Kings to cut ties with the 25-year-old Voynov.
“That he’s a top-four defenseman isn’t reason enough to keep him,” wrote Helene Elliott in the Los Angeles Times. “It’s irrelevant. He doesn’t deserve to wear their uniform and they shouldn’t grant him that privilege.”
If the Kings agree with that sentiment — and assuming Voynov isn’t deported or banned by the NHL — they would seem to have two options. One, they could terminate his contract, a la Richards. Two, they could try and trade him. (“Try” being the operative word there, as any team that would pay a price to get Voynov would also have a significant PR challenge with which to deal.)
All that said, it seems the Kings may opt to keep Voynov. According to LA Kings Insider, “the expectation, based on multiple conversations with those in hockey operations, is that he’ll be a part of the blue line when he recovers from a ruptured Achilles.”
If that’s the case, it’ll be because Voynov is a valuable hockey player and the Kings — despite professing things like, “It’s a privilege to be an NHL player, not a right” — can’t afford to miss the playoffs again, bad PR or not.
Last season, L.A.’s blue line was so thin that Drew Doughty often played more than 30 minutes a night. Since then, the Kings haven’t added anyone; they’ve only lost Andrej Sekera (free agency) and Robyn Regehr (retirement).
Related: Dean Lombardi is under pressure