The summer of 2017 was filled with rumours around a potential return to the NHL for Ilya Kovalchuk. Might 2018 be the same?
According to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston, that may very well be the case.
“He’s still doing his thing over in Russia, and that’s scoring a lot of goals—20 in 30 games for the powerhouse SKA St. Petersburg,” Johnston said Saturday during Hockey Night in Canada‘s Headlines segment.
“Last summer, he entertained some conversations about coming back to the NHL. It was complicated at that time because the New Jersey Devils held his rights and would have had to do a sign-and-trade or trade those rights,” Johnston said.
Kovalchuk ended up signing a one-year deal to remain in the KHL in July, but later reportedly indicated that 2017-18 will be his final hockey season in Russia.
The difference this time around, of course, is that Kovalchuk will hold his own rights next year. The forward walked away from the NHL—and his enormous 15-year deal with the Devils—in 2013, and per league rules, the Devils hold his NHL rights until he’s 35.
“He’s a full free agent as of July 1 this coming year and the feeling is he is open to those overtures again from NHL teams. And look, he scores a lot of goals—as I mentioned, he’s up to 52 in his last 90 games in the KHL—and there will certainly be interest.”