Former — and future? — NHL star Ilya Kovalchuk was again named captain of his KHL team, SKA St. Petersburg, Thursday, but the recent New Jersey Devil says he hasn’t forgotten about the Stanley Cup.
Kovalchuk signed a four-year deal with SKA in July, walking away from an NHL contract set to pay him $77 million over 12 seasons. The 30-year-old, who scored 417 goals and 399 assists in 816 NHL games, also served as captain of the KHL club during the NHL lockout.
Kovalchuk downplayed the connection between his bolt to the KHL and Russia’s hosting of the Winter Games Thursday.
“I’ve got room to grow. I didn’t come here to sit and wait for the Olympics. I’ve got to claw and work to prove everything on the ice,” Kovalchuk said, according to R-Sport. “There’s no limit to perfection.”
Kovalchuk also thanked Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello for allowing him to leave New Jersey.
“I’m very happy that it happened,” the sniper said. “The KHL is developing and growing, and at this point I want to be a hockey player in this league.”
At this point. Multiple reports suggest the former Devils star has designs on a return to the NHL down the road.
In an interview given back in July, Kovalchuk’s sister, Ariana, said her brother would like to return to the NHL after he plays at least three seasons overseas.
Earlier this week Kovalchuk himself told R-Sport that the Stanley Cup remains a dream of his:
“Naturally, he plans to return to America and perform in the NHL. But the next three years he will play in Russia,” Ariana said last month.
The Kovalchuk-captained SKA opens its KHL campaign Sept. 6 against Avangard Omsk.