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Ilya Kovalchuk eyeing NHL return in 2016-17 season



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In 2013, Ilya Kovalchuk “retired” from the NHL, leaving for the Kontinental Hockey League and helping to rescue the New Jersey Devils from a potential salary cap calamity thanks to the cap recapture clause, voiding the final 12 years and $77 million US of his contract

He’s now spent two seasons with SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL, scoring 137 points in 135 games and 12 more in 20 playoff games. Next season is the third year of his deal, which reportedly pays him as much as $15 million Euros annually “tax free” in Russia.

What’s the future hold for him? A source close to the situation tells Finland’s Iltalehti that Kovalchuk has had discussions with SKA management about returning to the NHL for the 2016-17 season.

The story details some of the KHL’s financial issues that could impact Kovalchuk’s decision, as the collapse of the Ruble has affected the economic stability of several of the League’s teams. But the fact is that a return to the NHL in 2016 has been strongly hinted at before, from no less an authority than Kovalchuk’s own sister.

This is all well and good, save for one wrinkle: Kovalchuk can’t just waltz back into the NHL as an unrestricted free agent.

Since he filed voluntary retirement papers, he would require approval from all 30 NHL teams to get back into the League or else he would need to sit out of hockey for a full season and then get the Devils’ permission to return.

If he waited until he turned 35 in the 2018-19 season, he could return without any approval.

Provided his back holds up, Kovalchuk is a still a game-changing offensive talent. But desire to return to the NHL is one thing; the actual mechanics of that return are more complicated.

How would Gary Bettman lean on this one? Ask his member teams to rubber stamp an all-world player’s return to the League, or blackball someone that skirted his commitment and signed with a rival league?


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I say no, unless he returns to his previous contract (with 9 years left on it) and to new jersey (with the caveat that if they take him back they lose their 1st round pick that they recouped when he left). they can then do with him what they see fit (if they want to take him back at all)

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He retires from the NHL with intent to leave the best league in Hockey, he leaves New Jersey handicapped, he literally got his money and ran with his tail between his legs to the KHL.

And now he thinks he has the audacity to march his cheeky buttocks back to the NHL? All the drama he's caused even before his reitrement?

Um no I'll have to say no. Ridiculous..

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If they allow him to walk back in, there's a few teams that should jump on the league about retirement contracts. Canucks being one of them.

Giving Jersey back that pick AFTER they forfeited it, then allowing this would be a shameful disgrace.

Also, he took the best paying years from the devils, went to Russia got paid HUGE money there and now faces uncertain economic times as per the story; and now wants to come back?


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I say he should be able to, Lemieux retired and came back, Kovalchuk should be able to as well (even if he was kind of a jerk to the NHL)

Comparing Kovalchuk's Retirement to Lemieux's first retirement is just ridiculous.

Lemieux's first retirement was due to his serious back issues. He thought he may never be able to literally lace skates up again at the time. His back improved, and he played again.

He didn't run and return because he thought there were greener pastures on the other side.

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I'd love to have him back in the NHL, but not if he is going to be allowed to whip it out and smack it around in Lou's face. "Take it Lou, hear me? Take it like a man". He should have to resume his career with the Devils or the the Devils and the League need to find some way to dissolve the contract. He shouldn't be convenienced just because he wants back in.

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