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Could Kovalchuk return to the NHL in 2018?

Jul 14, 2013, 7:07 PM EDT

ilyakgetty Getty Images

Once the shock of his “retirement” to the KHL wore off, more than a few people in the hockey world were saddened to think that Ilya Kovalchuk‘s days in the NHL are over. That might not be the case, however.

His sister Arina told (in Russian) that Kovalchuk wants to return to America after three years. The New York Post’s Larry Brooks points out that Kovalchuk would need the New Jersey Devils’ approval to return to the NHL by then – which would be 2016 – but that rule would be lifted entirely when the 30-year-old star turns to 35.

Ilya Kovalchuk will be removed from the “voluntary retired list” upon reaching his 35th birthday on April 15, 2018, and thereby would become an unrestricted free agent if the winger were to pursue a return to the NHL for the 2018-19 season.

Such a scenario (not to mention the 2016 possibility his sister mentioned) would generate quite a bit of controversy and prompt plenty of questions.

One of the key ones: how much would a team trust Kovalchuk to sign a 35+ contract, considering how his “first retirement” went? In a hypothetical scenario where he’d retire out of the blue again, that franchise would be stuck with whatever cap hit he’d carry regardless.

Of course, there’s the very real possibility that his NHL days are over, for real. After all, it doesn’t get much better than finishing with exactly a point-per-game in your career (816 in 816).

Still, it could make for a fascinating story to follow, especially if he gets to play against the Devils.

(H/T to Puck Daddy.)

  1. sharkie29 - Jul 14, 2013 at 7:09 PM


  2. mrpinkca - Jul 14, 2013 at 7:11 PM

    Don Cherry will be apoplectic.

  3. chrisk61 - Jul 14, 2013 at 7:16 PM

    yashin…bryzgalov…kovalchuk…what do they have in common…

    • squidward247 - Jul 14, 2013 at 7:37 PM

      Whatever it is, Yashin has ’em beat. He’s married to Carol Alt. 😉

  4. blackheart78 - Jul 14, 2013 at 7:31 PM

    Kovalchuk is a great, exciting player. Was one of the top ten in the league IMHO. But that being said he may have blacklisted himself from ever playing in the NHL again. I really cannot see a team taking more than a 1 year deal with him, especially at 34 or 35.

  5. lesleyvissersfacelift - Jul 14, 2013 at 7:38 PM

    Did I miss something? What does 2018 gave anything to do with anything?

    • chadc84 - Jul 14, 2013 at 7:47 PM

      you missed something

    • macjacmccoy - Jul 14, 2013 at 7:50 PM

      He wont be 35 until 2018. Which is when the devils wont have a say anymore.

    • stakex - Jul 14, 2013 at 8:26 PM

      You missed the entire article on the way to the comment section.

  6. 950003cups - Jul 14, 2013 at 7:51 PM

    Kovy will never play in the NHL again.

  7. 950003cups - Jul 14, 2013 at 7:59 PM

    He bailed on his commitment. He found a better offer and took it. So when Mrs Kocalchuk dumps Ilya for a guy with more money than him, I’m expecting he’ll fully understand.

    • stakex - Jul 14, 2013 at 8:27 PM

      There is quite a bit of difference between a business decision, and a personal decision.

    • blomfeld - Jul 15, 2013 at 12:05 PM

      950003cups – Exactly, as what goes around always comes around.

  8. sgtr0c - Jul 14, 2013 at 8:00 PM

    His descion was about where it would be best for his family. If in the future, if would be better in the USA, then he would come back (doubtful, but possible). As a dad, I would always choose what is best for my family. Imo

  9. lateralous - Jul 14, 2013 at 8:05 PM

    Dude, at this point just stay the hell over there.

  10. soldierone - Jul 14, 2013 at 8:24 PM

    Nope, he retired. Get outta here! You left the NHL, don’t come back.

  11. stakex - Jul 14, 2013 at 8:33 PM

    Lets be honest…. if he came back when he was 35, there would be 29 NHL teams lined up to try and sign him. He is a very talented player, and him leaving is a business decision. If he is opting to come back, I doubt he would be black listed by any teams other then perhaps the Devils.

    That doesn’t mean he would be offered a large or lucrative contract obviously… but he would have a lot of offers.

  12. titansrbeast - Jul 14, 2013 at 8:40 PM

    Would be pretty awesome if he wanted to come back and no one was willing to sign him. He doesn’t deserve to even play hockey after what he did.

  13. kegmen7 - Jul 14, 2013 at 9:17 PM

    In the immortal words of Ron Burgundy- Go f@#$ yourself St. Petersburg.

  14. thejrod2006 - Jul 14, 2013 at 10:47 PM

    So if Kovalchuk weren’t the ultimate scumbag before for how he left the Devils high and dry, he’ll turn around in 2018 after he’s made his money in Russia and sign with the Penguins, Rangers, or Flyers?

    The NHL might need to tweak their bylaws if it’s that easy to bail on a 15 year contract for a bigger payday. I already have little respect for Kovy for what he did… would be gone forever if he tries to come back to chase a Cup.

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