Former Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov has applied for reinstatement to the NHL.
According to multiple reports, and first reported by The Fourth Period’s Dennis Bernstein, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly confirmed ahead of Thursday’s Global Series game between the Florida Panthers and Winnipeg Jets that the 28-year-old defenseman is seeking his return to the league. Per Bernstein, Daly said that there is no timeline for Voynov’s potential return, adding that the league is in the “process of an intense factual investigation.” Once the investigation is complete, Voynov’s case will then be handed of commissioner Gary Bettman, who will “deal with (Voynov’s) application for reinstatement.”
Voynov has not played in the league since October 2014, when he was suspended indefinitely by the NHL. The suspension came as the result of a domestic violence charge against Voynov, and a charge to which Voynov later pleaded no contest. A probation report filed in conjunction with his no contest plea stated that Voynov had choked, pushed and kicked his wife, Marta Varlamova, during a dispute in the couple’s home in Redondo Beach, Calif., following a Halloween party. Voynov was sentenced to 90 days in prison, of which he served nearly two months in a $100-per-day detention center. He was also ordered to take part in a 52-week domestic violence prevention program and undertake eight hours of community service.
This isn’t the first time in the past several months that Voynov’s possible reinstatement has made headlines. Ahead of the Stanley Cup final in May, Daly was asked about Voynov’s potential NHL return and said it would “require a proceeding before the commissioner.” This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about the NHL doing its due diligence when it comes to Voynov, either. Daly first said the league was beginning its investigation process two months ago, per ESPN’s Emily Kaplan.
There were legal hurdles standing in Voynov’s way of a return at one point, as well. The no-contest plea and associated criminal record had hindered Voynov’s ability to obtain a work visa, meaning he would be unable to play in the NHL even with league reinstatement. However, Voynov sought to have the conviction dismissed in July and it was granted, thus opening the door for a potential NHL return.
The NHL previously blocked Voynov’s participation in the league-sanctioned World Cup of Hockey ahead of the 2016-17 campaign. After Voynov was added to the Russian roster ahead of the tournament, Bettman said the Russian Hockey Federation “was told that he was not eligible to play in the World Cup…His status has not changed.” The RHF eventually backed down and replaced the blueliner with Nikita Nesterov at the tournament.
If Voynov were to be reinstated by the league, it appears some NHL clubs would explore the idea of signing the defenseman. In June, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported that there was “quite a bit of interest” in the rearguard.
Over the course of his NHL career, which spanned three full seasons before his suspension, Voynov had scored 18 goals and 81 points in 190 regular season contests, averaging 21-plus minutes per game. He was also a key contributor to the Kings’ two Stanley Cup-winning teams. He scored one goal and three points while averaging 19:32 across 20 games during the 2011-12 Stanley Cup run in Los Angeles, and followed that with two goals and nine points in 26 games, as well as a 23:08 average ice time, en route to the 2014 Stanley Cup with the Kings.
Not long after departing the NHL — he self-deported rather than face deportation proceedings as a result of the conviction — Voynov signed a three-year contract with the KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg. Across 110 games, he scored 20 goals and 67 points, and was a member of the 2016-17 Gagarin Cup winning team, though he did not appear in the post-season. He drew attention stateside most recently at the 2018 Olympics, where he was a member of the gold medal-winning Olympic Athletes from Russia. He scored two goals and six points in six games.
Despite his contract being terminated by the Kings in June 2015, reinstatement by the NHL would not make Voynov an unrestricted free agent. Los Angeles retained the defenseman’s rights, meaning he would either have to be signed by the Kings or have his rights traded to the team seeking to sign the defenseman.