Hockey World Blog

Ilya Kovalchuk reportedly eying NHL return

Remember when superstar sniper Ilya Kovalchuk randomly decided to retire from the NHL?

Well, in the latest you’ve-got-to-be-joking rumor circulating the net, Ilya Kovalchuk is reportedly eying a return to the NHL through a potential loophole that could make the process a heck of a lot easier.

Evidently a trusted source told Finland’s Iltalehti that Kovalchuk has had discussions with his current team—SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL—about potentially returning to the NHL for the 2016-17 season.

Kovalchuk is reportedly owed $15 million Euros tax free for the next two seasons. However, there are rumors swirling that the KHL is hurting financially, as the collapse of the Ruble has affected the economic stability of several of the League’s teams. This could prompt the league to eliminate teams ahead of next season, but even the ones that survive may have trouble meeting their contractual obligations.

And, well, Ilya Kovalchuk certainly doesn’t work for free.

The problem is that Kovalchuk voluntarily retired from the NHL. This creates a slew of issues, but ultimately fits into the grand scheme that he could return in 2016-17 instead of next season.

Should Kovalchuk try to return to the NHL next season, he would need approval from all 30 teams in the league before he can lace up his skates for an NHL team again. Let’s just say that after his departure in 2013, the chances of that happening are slim.

He could also opt to sit out of hockey for one full season, and then only the New Jersey Devils—his last NHL employer—would need to approve his reinstatement. This has a better shot at happening, but still isn’t a given. Some within the Devils organization likely still harbor ill feelings toward Kovalchuk for the way his departure went down.

His last option would be to wait until he’s 35 during the 2018-19 season, which would allow him to return without any approval.

With rumors of his return coinciding with rumors of financial instability within the KHL—this whole scenario reeks of self preservation. It’s enough to put off a lot of folks around the NHL. But, as many other pundits have noted, Kovalchuk is still a world class talent and someone who could be a valuable asset to any team in the league. It will be interesting to see how this story unfolds over the next few years.

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