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Report: Kovalchuk will return to New Jersey

Jan 11, 2013, 11:20 AM EST

Ilya Kovalchuk Getty Images

The Ilya Kovalchuk-KHL saga is over.

Well, over for now.

Reports out of Russia claim the New Jersey sniper has played his final regular season game for SKA St. Petersburg and, after participating in Sunday’s KHL All-Star Game, will fly back to North America and report to Devils training camp — albeit a day late.

Here’s more, from NorthJersey.com’s Tom Gulliti:

According to Dmitry Chesnokov of Yahoo Sports, the coach of Kovalchuk’s KHL team, SKA St. Petersburg, said that Thursday’s game against Salavat Yulaev in Ufa, Russia was likely the last in the KHL for Kovalchuk, meaning, in Chesnokov’s estimation, that Kovalchuk will leave for New Jersey as early as Monday.

Slava Malamud, a U.S.-based correspondent for the Russian sports daily Sport-Express, posted on Twitter today that SKA St. Petersburg’s GM [Alexei Kasatonov] said the team will make an announcement on Kovalchuk Saturday and that [Kovalchuk’s] family is already back in the U.S.

Kovalchuk’s waffling has been a hot topic lately.

Things heated up immediately after the lockout ended, as Kovalchuk said only time would tell if he’d stay in the KHL. He then explained he wanted to read the entire NHL CBA before making a decision.

Later, Kovalchuk told Russian news outlet Sport-Express he wanted to finish the season with SKA, but admitted he had “contractual obligations in the NHL, which will be hard to break.”

Given Kovalchuk is New Jersey’s highest-paid player — he’s four three years into a 15-year, $100 million deal — it’s easy to see why his actions have come under scrutiny from fans and media.

What’s interesting, though, is the scrutiny also infiltrated the dressing room.

Teammate and former captain Patrik Elias said Kovalchuk missing the start of Devils camp is problematic.

“It is,” Elias said when asked if Kovalchuk missing the start of camp was a big deal. “We’re all supposed to report on Sunday, right?”

Compounding matters is the fact Kovalchuk should (theoretically) take a bigger leadership role this season with former captain Zach Parise now in Minnesota.

Kovalchuk was an alternate captain last season and led the Devils in regular season and playoff scoring. He also drew praise from NHL on NBC analyst Jeremy Roenick for leading New Jersey to the Cup finals.

“Kovalchuk has grown more than most superstars have in the National Hockey League,” Roenick said. “He’s an all-around player and much more of a team player.

“If he doesn’t grow like that, the team doesn’t get to the Final.”

  1. sportsfan69 - Jan 11, 2013 at 11:30 AM

    Good deal!

  2. mudkip23 - Jan 11, 2013 at 11:55 AM

    Of course he will.

  3. DED - Jan 11, 2013 at 11:55 AM

    Ranger fan here. I think the Devils fans would be better suited to have Elias (if you don’t mind his age) or Clarkson (if Elias is too old) serve as the new captain. Kovy as captain seems problematic. Elias is well respected and though I can’t stand Clarkson, it’s because he gives the Rangers headaches, not because he doesn’t give his all on the ice.

    • timsabourin - Jan 11, 2013 at 12:04 PM

      Always thought Elias should have been made captain originally. I wonder how guys will reacts to Kovi flirting with the idea of staying in the K.

      • lordfletcher - Jan 11, 2013 at 12:41 PM

        Kovy is a monster and played his heart out (back out) in the postseason last year. Glad to hear he is coming back and him being the captain makes sense to me. He isn’t going anywhere for a while and is someone a franchise can build around

        -wild fan

      • timsabourin - Jan 11, 2013 at 12:45 PM

        not discounting how important he is to the team, but do you really want your captain talking about staying away from the NHL for a season?

      • timsabourin - Jan 11, 2013 at 12:45 PM

        maybe longer

      • lordfletcher - Jan 11, 2013 at 1:10 PM

        I think it’s kind of a slap in the face if you don’t make him ‘C’. The dude is your best player (no longer Marty, IMO) and he gave his all last year and if you don’t give him the C again, that’s two years in a row they pass on him. You paid him top dollars, make him your C…. just my .02

      • mpg44 - Jan 11, 2013 at 1:38 PM

        Well…. First off , goalies can not be captains . If this were not the case , Marty would have been named the captain years ago! Second , Elias was a captain and there is some question if he wants it back ( all though first choice should go to him ). Third , a captain is not chosen based solely on who is your best player or who is the leader in points . A captain is chosen based on his on ice AND off ice mannerism to the team. If you were to base it off kovy ‘s attitude towards the team in recent days ….. I don’t think he would even be on the list of candidates. Elias , if he don’t want it , Salvador.

      • valoisvipers - Jan 11, 2013 at 1:45 PM

        @mpg44 I guess you forgot that Luongo was captain for the Cunucks.

      • lordfletcher - Jan 11, 2013 at 1:58 PM

        @ mpg44

        I wasn’t implying Marty should be the captain, I was saying he is no longer the Devils best player (IN MY OPINION)……

        as for the rest of your pointless ramble, if you don’t believe in any way that dollars results in captaincy you are blind. I am not saying they go 1 and 2 but they do correlate. The Devils should be doing everything in their power to keep him happy. Kovy can make more money and potentially be happier back home in Russia than he maybe in the states, the thought of awarding him the C isn’t too bad of an idea,…

      • timsabourin - Jan 11, 2013 at 2:05 PM

        @lordfletcher not all teams adopt the ‘Minnesota Model’ for determining alternate captains/captains of automatically giving the letter to the player with the biggest contract.
        mpg44 is on point in saying that just because he is your best player doesn’t mean he should be captain. By your logic, Phil Kessel should be captain of the Leafs. I love me some Phil but come on, that’s just rediculous.

      • mpg44 - Jan 11, 2013 at 2:09 PM

        Research it . Luongo was named the captain but was not allowed to serve as ON ICE captain .

        @lord fletcher ….. Your ramble is in sane , and spoken by someone who has never been on an actuall team before at any level . If you have been you would know differently . Besides …. Based on your logic , langenbrunner was making more money for those few years ? More then Elias , broduer , praise, …. Should we go one. Captains are mostly chosen for their leadership I the locker room more then the ice.

        I respect your opinion and every one certainly has them but you are wrong on this one .

      • lordfletcher - Jan 11, 2013 at 2:38 PM

        timsabourin

        Minnesota model? Koivu isn’t the highest player, was when he was the captian but now is the 4th, so what was your point?.

        Again, I wasn’t saying the highest player automatically gets the C, or deserves it but there is a point why those guys make the most and usually end up with it…Best player, more money, usually leads to the C. Not an exact science but easy to connect the dots with…. and if you read posts before the one you had to chime in on, maybe the whole argument makes more sense… Your Kessel comment does not apply once you can comprehend my argument. I do not know the percentage but I am guessing the highest payed skater per team is more than a 50% ratio for them wearing the C throughout the league or was the highest paid at one point.

        @mpg44
        “and spoken by someone who has never been on an actuall team before at any level . If you have been you would know differently ”
        :D

      • timsabourin - Jan 11, 2013 at 3:18 PM

        @lordfelcher I’m talking about those two donkeys you just signed, who were introduced with A’s on their jerseys. Note I said alternate captains/captains. Now, about Koivu, what I think you’re trying to say is that he was the highest paid player on the team when he was made captain? Cool, that’s why I said the Minnesota model.

        As for your argument, right after you said ‘I think it’s kind of a slap in the face if you don’t make him ‘C’’, you immediately followed that with ‘The dude is your best player (no longer Marty, IMO) and he gave his all last year and if you don’t give him the C again, that’s two years in a row they pass on him. You paid him top dollars, make him your C’.

        Following so far? Good.

        Your reasoning for giving Kovy the C was, in fact, because he is the best/highest paid player. So maybe you don’t really comprehend your own arguement. Once you revisit the Kessel comment considering your revised arguement (you’re welcome by the way), I think it will make a bit more sense.

  4. thecheeman - Jan 11, 2013 at 12:03 PM

    Correction: It’s Kovalchuk’s 3rd year into the 15 year deal. The year before that was when they traded for him mid-season before he became a UFA.

    There’s hardly anyone on this team signed past this year, but I agree just give it to Elias at this point.

    • Mike Halford - Jan 11, 2013 at 12:21 PM

      Yep, got that. Thanks.

    • 950003cups - Jan 11, 2013 at 1:01 PM

      Elias doesn’t want the “C” He said that last year in an interview.

      Well Well Well Now we will see how DeBoer and Stevens will fix this mess in the locker room. Kovy plays with heart and soul. He first came here and droped Sean Avery when avery was chirping to Marty. He’s dropped them when the team needed a spark, vs Washington. He’s dropped them in Phily when Rinaldo slewfooted Parise (Brayden Schenn took that KO punch).

      The guy has shown team camaraderie from day 1. I have no doubt, that knowing Elias this long, Kovy knows what Elias was really saying . It’s true, it’s not OK. Unless management gave him permission.

      Kovy better get off to a good start. He’s in more game shape than anyone in the league now.

      • sheapuck - Jan 11, 2013 at 1:16 PM

        True. kovy has heart. He is just showing his heart is in a different place now. He signed up with a Russioan team who obviously has shown they want him as opposed to the NHL which has been arguing with players all this time. He is showing his heart to the team i he is currently playing for and showing that he does not just want to pack up and leave. Tough situation for him.

  5. nomorekidsinbcn - Jan 11, 2013 at 12:50 PM

    20 years Bruins fan here … European even more (so I don’t wanne hear any bias things) BUT even this little pre-season show of Kovalchuk now again, just ensures me again, that Kovy inherits all maybe all Russian primadona clichés that you can have (incl. the talent btw)

  6. dipspit55 - Jan 11, 2013 at 1:57 PM

    You have to give the C to Salvador the guy is a true professional never hear him complain about anything just plays the game with heart. Also you don’t make that playoff run with out Salvador make him the captain

  7. hockeyflow33 - Jan 11, 2013 at 2:56 PM

    Almost every player has had issues this year of inaccurate reporting/translations coming out of Europe, why is this any different?

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