Former National Hockey League star and 2001 first overall pick Ilya Kovalchuk reportedly intends to put an end to his career in the Kontinental Hockey League and return to the NHL next season. That does not seem to have changed.
For the past few days, many rumors have said that the 34-year-old veteran forward has signed a contract with the New York Rangers, the one team that Kovalchuyk himself seemed to be looking forward to play for. Sport-Express reported Kovalchuk was near a contract with the Rangers, which would mark his return to the NHL for the first time since 2013. The terms of that agreement would need to be hashed out by league officials because of the complex terms under which Kovalchuk left the United States and New Jersey Devils.
But not so fast. The main man himself made a shocking announcement on Friday about this rumoured contract with the Blue Shirts. KHL insider Aivis Kalnins has revealed that Kovalchuyk has not signed with the Rangers, and is looking at all teams' results to make his final decision on where he would like to sign this summer.
''Thats what Russian media does, they have found and signed a contract for me, while I haven't even discussed anything with any of the teams yet," Kovalchuky told media on Friday.
Kovalchuk retired from the NHL in July 2013 with 12 years and $77 million remaining on his 15-year, $100-million contract with the New Jersey Devils to sign with SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL. Because he was placed on the voluntary retirement list, the Devils retained his rights until he turns 35, which he’ll do next Sunday.
When everyone, maybe even the Rangers, thought this was in the bag, Kovalchuyk has surely offered a huge twist in the story. Of course his addition to the Rangers' lineup would have accelerated the rebuilding mode in New York quite a bit. However, maybe the major transactions that were done by the Rangers close to the trade deadline has turned Kovalchuyk off the desire to play for the team.
With the NHL playoffs currently on, Kovalchyuk might choose to sit back and watch teams compete and see if one of the contender is looking for a veteran offensive boost in the summer.
Kovalchuk had 32 goals and 65 points in 55 KHL games and won an gold medal with the Olympic Athletes from Russia. Drafted first overall by the Atlanta Thrashers — now the Winnipeg Jets — in 2001, he tallied 417 goals and 399 assists in 866 NHL regular-season games.
As for now, we are back to square one with Kovalchuyk.