Kovalchuk Returning to the NHL?

Hockey superstar Ilya Kovalchuk shocked the world on July 11, 2013, when he announced that he was “retiring” from the NHL. The sniping winger affectionately known as “Kovy” left $77 million on the table from the New Jersey Devils to play in the KHL in his home country of Russia, leaving many Devils fans hurt and upset. I won’t lie, I’m still not over it.

Five years later, and after numerous rumors speculating his inevitable return (and the Devils being one of the NHL’s basement dwellers), Ilya Kovalchuk will reportedly return to the NHL and sign with the New York Rangers.

Kovalchuk also won’t be coming back cheap, with the referenced deal being worth a reported $6 million per season. At the moment, this deal doesn’t make that sense. Kovalchuk has made it known that he wants to win the Stanley Cup, but the Rangers just dismantled their roster and are preparing for a rebuild. On the surface, this looks like yet another “James Dolan wanting to sign an aging star” move.

However, the Rangers do possess a talented nucleus of young players that could make this rebuild go quicker than expected, especially when you take into account that their aging star goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist also has Stanley Cup aspirations. It’s unclear how much Kovalchuk has left in the tank to contribute in the NHL, but if he’s even a fraction of what he was five years ago, the Rangers will still be getting a good player.

A deal with Ilya Kovalchuk cannot become official until April 15, when the Russian winger turns 35 years old and is no longer “property” of the New Jersey Devils. He will be an unrestricted free agent, free to sign with any team of his choosing, and for now, it looks it will be the Rangers. Though it’s still preemptive, welcome back to the NHL, Kovy. I can’t wait to boo you when you step on that Prudential Center ice for the first time in five years.


Photo: SportsNet

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