In 2013, Ilya Kovalchuk, the man who’s been called the greatest natural scorer that the NHL has ever seen, made a decision to retire from the series just three seasons to some 15-year deal with the New Jersey Devils and return to Russia to play out the rest of his professional career in the KHL. Well, do not call it a comeback, however the 34-year-old Kovie is considering a return to North America for the 2017-18 regular season.
The Russian sniper, who gathered 816 points in 816 career matches played in the NHL, has played portions of the previous four seasons for SKA Saint Petersburg and is coming off a year where he gathered 78 points in 60 games — good for second in the league in scoring.
Although there’s a slew of hurdles to clear when Kovie wishes to play for a team other than New Jersey, BetOnline believes there’s a 4/1 possibility that he starts the 2017-18 NHL season on the roster of the Montreal Canadiens.
In order for Kovalchuk to have rid as a free agent, every NHL team (including New Jersey) would have to approve his unrestricted release from the Devils and I am not so sure that’s realistic. The Devils got severely screwed from the Kovie retirement and it’s unlikely they will want him scoring goals against them at no cost. What could occur, however, is that the Devils (who still own his rights) agree to his return, signal him and promptly exchange him to another team.
As for the possibility of the former Maurice»Rocket» Richard Trophy winner winding up with the Habs — it makes a great deal of sense. Former KHLer Alex Radulov joined the Canadiens last offseason on a one-piece bargain and it seems like they will try hard to re-sign him. Radulov has hinted that he’d like overall manager Marc Bergevin to make a run at Kovalchuk and given the Habs’ serious problems at the end, Kovie might be just what le doctor ordered.
Montreal already has a strong Russian contingent with the above Radulov, Alex Galchenyuk, Andrei Markov and Mikhail Sergachev all on the roster and also an all-Ruski forward line of Kovie-Gally-Rad will be incredible to watch.
All that said, the transaction to obtain Kovalchuk in the Devils would be a tough one to negotiate and it would likely require the Habs to provide a blue-liner and a future draft pick or two. There would also be a ton of other clubs in the race to scoop the marksman of 417 NHL goals so by no means will this be a simple effort for Habs’ brass to accomplish, and remember — all this is under the premise that the Russian winger even determines to return whatsoever.