Russian star forward Ilya Kovalchyuk might be eyeing a return to the National Hockey League, but one team has made it clear it will not be with them. NHL fans have been patiently waiting to see where 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.
Fans, you are now being informed that his return will not be with the Philadelphia Flyers. At a media availability on Thursday, Flyers general manager Ron Hextall told reporters the team is interested in signing free agents to short-term agreements, but that Philadelphia has no plans to speak with Kovalchuk's representatives, as reported by Adam Kimelman of NHL.com.
The Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks are among the teams that have held discussions with Kovalchuk, while the New York Rangers also checked in on the Russian winger, as it was first rumoured that he was close to signing a deal with them.
NHL insider Pierre LeBrun reports that Kovalchyuk has been holding up the trade market for the past weeks. LeBrun reveals that teams with interest in Kovalchuk are among some of the clubs the Carolina Hurricanes are talking to about a possible trade of Jeff Skinner.Kovalchuk must make a decision where he’ll sign in the next weeks before the Hurricanes can move Skinner.
A huge holdup...
While Kovalchyuk has reportedly spoken with the Kings and Sharks, Sportsnet had revealed that Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney intends to speak with Kovalchuk’s agent.
“He’s got things that he’s looking for and we’ll see where it goes.”
One thing seems almost certain is that Kovalchuk’s preference is to join a Stanley Cup contender. All of the three interested teams tick that box and could persuade Kovalchyuk to jump on board. The Russian veteran could reach an agreement in principle with a team before the unrestricted free agent market officially opens at noon ET on July 1, but Kovalchuk can't officially sign until July 1.
If Kovalchyuk decides only to reveal his next NHL destination then, it would be a huge obstacle for the Hurricanes in their quest to move Skinner.
This is definitely something we must keep an eye on!