Although he’s well-known for his rather explosive retirement from the New Jersey Devils during the summer of 2013, he is now, or so rumors would have us believe, considering a return to the NHL.
The rumor comes from Finnish magazine Iltalehti, who claims that a “trusted source” close to Kovalchuk has told them that the Russian sniper has told SKA management that his desire is to return to the NHL for the 2016-17 season. The same rumor was tossed around last June around the internet and on various websites, and was made worse with Kovalchuk’s sister weighing in on the situation.
Media exploded around the story, making it the hottest topic since the NHL trade deadline, and now various people from the KHL have decided to step up to comment on the situation. The first one? The Vice President of SKA: Roman Rotenberg.
“The Finnish article is a joke, they have a great sense of humor. Kovalchuk has a contract with the team for next two seasons, [and] there is no way he will make his return to the NHL in 2016.”
“They (The Finnish newspaper) might as well start a rumor that Leo Messi will sign with a Russian team.”
The team will also demand the newspaper to print another news piece to prove their claims that an insider has spread such rumors.
With SKA trying to clear up the rumors, famous Russian hockey analyst and commentator Sergei Gimayev believes the newspaper could be right.
“Kovy could return to NHL, but only after his contract is over. Being not only the face of the SKA franchise, but also the paper boy of the whole KHL, Kovalchuk is tied to multiple contracts, not only from his team, but the league and sponsors that pay him exorbitant amounts of money to raise awareness about the league.”
As Gimayev stated, the Russian forward can play in the NHL, and has loads of respect there in terms of producing on the ice but won’t leave the team unless SKA ST. Petersburg agrees to let him go, and why would they? It’s clear that he won’t be running away from a Russian team just like he ran away from New Jersey Devils.
The NHL is a business where players like him get a chance, if Ilya calls and asks for a reasonable amount of money, there won’t be anyone questioning the interest. We all know he is a player every single team in the league would want to sign. The 31-year old (34 after his contract expires) obviously won’t get those $11 million plus added bonuses he gets in the KHL, but he is still worth something, as evidenced by his track record.
A good example is Jaromir Jagr. He left the NHL, continued his dominance in the KHL putting up near point per game numbers, and then decided to return back to North America. Even Jagr has said that he sometimes thinks it was a mistake to go back to Europe.
The last person to step up on the podium to kill the rumors was Kovalchuk’s agent.
“I don’t see why anyone would have to make up such gossip. Ilya’s contract ends on April 30th, 2017 and he will stay with SKA. My belief is that people just need something to talk about in-between playoff series, so I guess that’s where it came from.”
quotes taken and translated from championat.com/sportbox.ru