Ilya Kovalchuk says next KHL season will be his last


Ilya Kovalchuk. (Jussi Nukari/Lehtikuva/AP)

Ilya Kovalchuk’s return to the NHL may not have worked for the 2017-18 season, but he’s determined for that to change in a year’s time.

Speaking to Russia-24 TV channel, and translated by Sport-Express hockey writer Igor Eronko, Kovalchuk said the upcoming season will be his last in the KHL because he wants to be an NHL player again.

Kovalchuk retired from the NHL after the 2013 season and signed a four-year deal with SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL. The Russian winger had only completed three seasons of his 15-year, $100-million contract with the New Jersey Devils.

Now 34, Kovalchuk expressed interest in coming back to the NHL earlier this summer, but the Devils own his rights until he turns 35. The 2001 first-overall pick would have had to sign a new contract with the rebuilding Devils before he could be traded.

Devils GM Ray Shero told Andrew Gross of he never received a trade proposal from a rival team interested in Kovalchuk.

“I never had an offer I turned down,” Shero said. “He had to get a deal somewhere. That was step one. … That never happened, at least to bring to me for me to consider anything.”

Because a trade couldn’t be arranged, the Devils didn’t sign Kovalchuk and he’s going back to SKA for another season. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent next summer.

Kovalchuk had 417 goals and 816 points in 816 games with Atlanta and New Jersey before walking away from the NHL. He recorded 32 goals and 78 points in 60 KHL games for league-champion St. Petersburg this past season.


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