Report: Ilya Kovalchuk intends to play in NHL next season

Ilya Kovalchuk works out at the 2018 Winter Olympics. (Julio Cortez/AP)

Former NHL star and 2001 first overall pick Ilya Kovalchuk reportedly intends to end his time in the KHL and return to the NHL next season.

According to Russian hockey journalist Igor Eronko, Kovalchuk wants to play in the NHL for at least two more seasons. He will be an unrestricted free agent in the summer.

Kovalchuk retired from the NHL in July 2013 with 12 years and $77 million remaining on his 15-year, $100-million contract with the New Jersey Devils to sign with SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL. Because he was placed on the voluntary retirement list, the Devils retained his rights until he turns 35, which he’ll do next Sunday.

Kovalchuk was interested in returning to the NHL last season, but the Devils held his rights so he either had to play in New Jersey or be traded to another team.

Although Devils GM Ray Shero expressed a willingness to move Kovalchuk, no deal could be worked out and he returned to SKA St. Petersburg.

Kovalchuk had 32 goals and 65 points in 55 KHL games and won an gold medal with the Olympic Athletes from Russia.

He had 816 points (417 goals and 399 assists) in 816 NHL games with the Atlanta Thrashers and Devils.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.