Ilya Kovalchuk is reportedly interested in an NHL comeback

You’ve probably heard this one before, but Ilya Kovalcyuk is reportedly considering a return to the NHL.

It seems like the Russian winger enjoys stirring the pot by sparking discussion of a potential comeback every year, and he did so once again this week with some comments to the media.


Kovalchuk abruptly and unexpectedly retired from the NHL in 2013 despite having 12 years and $77 million left on his contract with the New Jersey Devils. He went on to a sign a four-year deal with SKA Saint Petersburg of the KHL.

When that deal runs out at the end of this season, the 33-year-old Kovalchuk said he’ll explore his options — including any potential offers from the NHL.

The offensively gifted winger has been very successful playing against KHL opponents in recent years, so it wouldn’t be all that surprising if NHL clubs were interested in his services, even as he approaches his mid-30s.

Remember, a 39-year-old Jaromir Jagr returned stateside in 2011 after a stint in the KHL and he’s still going strong (though he might literally be immortal). More recently, Alexander Radulov has seen early success this season with the Montreal Canadiens after spending years in the KHL.

Though a possible Kovalchuk return might be a little more complicated. If he wanted to come back this upcoming offseason, all 30 NHL teams (possibly 31, with the Las Vegas expansion) would have to sign off on his return. The Devils still hold his rights, but he could be placed through waivers upon reinstatement.

If he waits until he turns 35, however, Kovalcyuk’s name will come off the voluntary retirement list and he’ll be allowed to return as an unrestricted free agent.

Or, of course, he could just sign another long-term deal to stay in his home country of Russia — the place he so desperately wanted to play when he left the Devils high and dry nearly four years ago.