December 26: The deal is now official. Despite a decent 2019-20 season in the NHL, even as he was traded twice, Kovalchuk has decided to return to the KHL. Avangard Omsk has announced a contract with Kovalchuk not only for the remainder of the season, but for next season as well. At 37, this very well could mean that we have seen the last of Kovalchuk in the NHL.
December 19: It appears that Ilya Kovalchuk’s time in the NHL may be coming to an end for the second time (after abruptly leaving New Jersey following the 2012-13 season). His agent Yuri Nikolaev told Sport24’s Maxim Samartsev that he is working on a deal for his client to join Avangard Omsk of the KHL for the remainder of their season.
The 37-year-old had a rocky 2019-20 campaign. After being benched in Los Angeles, he eventually agreed to a contract termination and signed in Montreal early in January. He made an immediate impact with the Canadiens and did well enough that they were able to trade him to Washington for a third-round pick just six weeks later. Unfortunately for him and the Capitals, things didn’t go as well with his new team, especially in the playoffs where he had just a single assist in eight games. Between the three teams, he had 10 goals and 16 assists in 46 regular season games, slightly beating his point-per-game average from his first year with Los Angeles.
While it may seem odd that news of this comes just as an agreement on the upcoming NHL season has been reached, it’s worth noting that the KHL trade deadline is next Sunday and players not on a roster by then are ineligible for the rest of the season. That makes the 27th a hard deadline for Kovalchuk to finalize something with Avangard or another KHL team to ensure he’ll have a spot to play for the rest of year since clearly, there aren’t NHL opportunities arising for him at this time.