While many people are looking forward to free agency this summer, which includes a number of interesting players like John Tavares, James van Riemsdyk, John Carlson and Evander Kane, the NHL is also expected to get back Russia’s Ilya Kovalchuk this summer, who has made it clear he wants to return to the NHL.
What people may have forgotten, according to the New York Post’s Larry Brooks, is that Kovalchuk also finds himself in an exclusive category as he will become a unrestricted free agent on his 35th birthday, which will be on April 15, and the veteran can begin talking to teams then. While he cannot sign an actual contract for the 2018-19 season until July 1st, he can negotiate with teams and agree to a contract in principle after his birthday. That could prove to be a big advantage to other players who will have to wait for the pre-July 1st interview period to negotiate with teams.
Besides leading Russia to a gold medal at this year’s Olympic Games, Kovalchuk has produced big numbers in the KHL. Despite being in his mid-thirties, he has put up great numbers over the past two years. He has scored 32 goals in each of those seasons and combined for 143 points. While last year, he made it clear he wanted to play in New York or in Florida, Kovalchuk has stated he wants to win a Stanley Cup before he finishes his playing career, which could rule out most of those options from a year ago.
Kovalchuk’s SKA St. Petersburg team is currently in the second round of the KHL playoffs with his team leading 3-1 over Lokotomotiv.