At least 10 NHL teams reportedly interested in Ilya Kovalchuk

At least 10 NHL teams reportedly interested in Ilya Kovalchuk

It appears we’re inching closer to Ilya Kovalchuk’s return to the NHL. According to TSN Insider Darren Dreger, at least 10 teams are interested in signing the Russian sniper in free agency this summer.

Kovalchuk, who was originally drafted by the Atlanta Thrashers with the first overall pick in the 2001 NHL draft, infamously walked away from the New Jersey Devils just three seasons into a mammoth 15-year contract. During the 2012-13 NHL lockout, Kovalchuk played for SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL. He returned to the Devils when the lockout ended and completed the season, but Kovalchuk’s desire was to return home and continue playing in Russia.

The final 12 years and $77 million of his contract was voided and Kovalchuk “retired” from the NHL. The Devils held Kovalchuk’s NHL rights until he turned 35 years old. Now that he’s 35, Kovalchuk is free to return to the league and sign with any team he wants.

As Dreger reports, it seems he’s going to have a lot of choices. For Kovalchuk, it’s all about one thing — winning.

“I talked to him last week, maybe 10 days ago, and he said all of the right things. He’s got more money than he’s ever going to spend, and his families are going to spend, so this isn’t about chasing the dollar. He’s going to get a two, maybe a three-year deal. He has an Olympic gold. He won a couple of the Gagarin Cups in the KHL, so this is about doing what Alex Ovechkin and his Russian buddies did with the Washington Capitals, and that’s winning a Stanley Cup.

“So he’s going to be as selective as he can be and he feels that he can still contribute at a high level,” Dreger said.

Though there’s obviously a risk in signing a 35-year-old who hasn’t played in the NHL for a few years, Kovalchuk will come on a shorter term than other big-name free agents on the open market. Bob McKenzie said that he would be looking for a two- or three-year deal, mitigating the long-term risk of signing him.

“He’s probably looking for a two or three-year deal at more than $6 million a year, so he’s not cheap; but he should provide some guaranteed offense – whether it’s 15, 20, 25, 30 goals I don’t know. But I think there’s an expectation he can still put the puck in the net.”

Kovalchuk had an excellent time in 2017-18. Though St. Petersburg failed to win the Gagarin Cup, Kovalchuk scored 63 points in 53 KHL games and helped Russia to an Olympic Gold Medal at Peyongchang with an MVP-performance.

The only thing left for Kovalchuk to accomplish is winning a Stanley Cup. Which team gives him the best chance to accomplish that? window.fbMessengerPlugins = window.fbMessengerPlugins || { init : function() { FB.init({ appId: "1678638095724206", xfbml: true, version: "v2.6" }); }, callable : [] }; window.fbAsyncInit = window.fbAsyncInit || function() { window.fbMessengerPlugins.callable.forEach( function( item ) { item(); } ); window.fbMessengerPlugins.init(); }; setTimeout( function() { (function(d, s, id){ var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) { return; } js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk')); }, 0);