In 2013, Ilya Kovalchuk, the man who’s been called the best natural scorer the NHL has ever seen, made a decision to retire from the series only 3 seasons to some 15-year deal with the New Jersey Devils and return to Russia to play out the remainder of his professional career in the KHL. Well, don’t call it a comeback, but the Kovie is currently considering a return to North America for the season.
The Russian sniper, who collected 816 points in 816 career matches played at the NHL, has played portions of their last four seasons for SKA Saint Petersburg and is coming off a year where he amassed 78 points in 60 games — good for second in the league in scoring.
Although there’s a ton of challenges to clear when Kovie wants to play for a team other than New Jersey, BetOnline believes there’s a 4/1 possibility he begins the 2017-18 NHL season on the roster of the Montreal Canadiens.
In order for Kovalchuk to have cleared as a free agent, each NHL team (including New Jersey) would need to approve his unrestricted release in the Devils and I am not so sure that is realistic. The Devils got severely screwed by the Kovie retirement and it’s unlikely they will need him scoring goals against them for free. What could happen, however, is that the Devils (who still own his rights) concur to his return, signal him promptly trade him to another team.
In terms of the possibility of the former Maurice”Rocket” Richard Trophy winner winding up with the Habs — it makes a lot of sense. Former KHLer Alex Radulov combined the Canadiens last offseason on a one-year deal and it seems like they will try hard to re-sign him. Radulov has hinted he’d like overall director Marc Bergevin to make a run at Kovalchuk and given the Habs’ serious issues at the offensive end, Kovie might be precisely what le physician ordered.
Montreal has a strong Russian contingent together with the aforementioned Radulov, Alex Galchenyuk, Andrei Markov and Mikhail Sergachev on the roster and an all-Ruski ahead of Kovie-Gally-Rad will be amazing to watch.
All that said, the transaction to obtain Kovalchuk in the Devils are a tough one to negotiate and it’d likely demand the Habs to give 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’ Steel to accomplish, and remember all this is under the assumption that the Russian winger even decides to come back whatsoever.
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