According to a report from top KHL insider Igor Eronko, former NHL superstar Ilya Kovalchuk will sign a two or three year deal with the New York Rangers on July 1st, 2018 when he’s finally eligible to make his NHL return.
Wow… this has been speculated all along, but to actually see it published by a respected and vetted journalist is something else. For those wondering, Eronko is a well connected Moscow based reporter with daily Russian newspaper Sport-Express. He’s also an NHL.com contributor in his native language and a commentator for European broadcaster Eurosport. In other words, he’s a trustworthy source, unlike many of the reporters based out of Russia.
While the Rangers may not seem like the perfect fit for the 35 year old Kovalchuk on paper, they are just beginning a rebuild after all, we’ve always known that the Russian sniper has been attracted to the big lights of the big city. Kovalchuk, of course, played four seasons just across the Hudson River for the New Jersey Devils before abandoning his massive $100 million deal, leaving nearly $80 million on the table to go play in the KHL for powerhouse team St. Petersburg SKA. After a five year sojourn, he’s ready to return and he has the Rangers in his sights.
Kovalchuk, selected 1st overall by the Atlanta Thrashers in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, has a remarkable 417 goals and 816 points in 816 NHL games, good for exactly a point-per-game average over the course of his 12 season career. Not bad. Not bad at all. But at 35 years of age and after five seasons in Russia, what kind of player will the Rangers be getting? Surely we won’t be the player who twice eclipsed 50 goals and 90 points in the NHL, right? Probably not, but they’ll still get a productive goal scorer at the very least. Kovalchuk led the entire KHL in scoring yet again this season with 31 goals and 63 points in just 53 games. Last season he finished second with 32 goals and 78 points in 60 games. The old dog clearly still has some fight left in him.
UPDATE: In a Russian-language article on Sport-Express, Eronko reports that Kovalchuk's new deal will pay him an annual salary of approximately $6 million USD.