National Hockey League fans have been patiently waiting to see where former star and pending Ilya Kovalchyuk will sign, following a five-year stint in the Kontinental Hockey League in his home country of Russia, after he retired from the New Jersey Devils in 2013, a move that cut short his previously signed 15-year deal.
On Saturday evening, a breaking news report from TSN insider Darren Dreger revealed that the Russian superstar has met with the Los Angeles Kings about a potential contract on Friday. Furthermore, the report also noted that Kovalchyuk will meet with division rival San Jose Sharks on the possibility of signing with them.
Last week, Dreger's colleague NHL insider Pierre LeBrun made it clear that the 35-year-old forward is ready to return to the NHL for the long haul. Kovalchyuk is courting interest from possible NHL suitors, with the idea of a two- or three-year contract close in mind.
“I’m exploring every (NHL) possibility for him at this stage,” Kovalchyuk's new agent JP Barry of CAA Sports told The Athletic. “We could make a decision around draft time or just a bit after.”
Here is what LeBrun had to say on what Kovalchyuk would prefer to get on his new NHL deal, and the obstacles he might be facing in the process:
"He’s also a 35-and-over deal, which has CBA implications (the entire contract counts against the cap regardless of whether he plays out the deal) so no doubt teams would rather just have him on a one-year deal, but that’s not what Barry intends to get. It’s going to be at least two years, if not three," explained LeBrun.
News were just leaked that the Sharks are nearing a buyout of the final year of defenseman Paul Martin's contract, which could take place next week when the window opens on June 15th. With a buyout, instead of taking Martin’s entire $4.85M cap hit this year, the team would instead take a $2.02M cap hit this year and a $1.42M cap hit in 2019-20.It would save the Sharks approximately $2.8M in cap space for the 2018-19 campaign, which could be useful in pursuing Kovalchyuk down the line.
The Kings and Sharks are used to battling one another of the ice, and now, they might have to face off away from the rink in order to come out on top and sign the coveted Russian star looking to make a powerful comeback in the NHL.