Ilya Kovalchuk hasn’t played in the NHL since departing North America in favour of Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League at 2013, but the superstar left-winger is set to make his return to the very best hockey league on the planet this summer as an unrestricted free agent.
If it comes to the chances on where Kovalchuk will property, online sportsbook BetOnline has tabbed the New York Rangers as the +200 front-runners, together with the Los Angeles Kings (+250), San Jose Sharks (+300), New York Islanders (+400), New Jersey Devils (+600) and Carolina Hurricanes (+1000) also readily available to bet on.
Kovalchuk gets a clean slate
At 35, it is no secret Kovalchuk is past his prime, but he’ll be a hot commodity at no service regardless of his age. The Russian established himself as one of the most prolific goal scorers in the NHL in his 11 decades, compiling 417 goals and 399 assists in 816 career games. Kovalchuk spent his first eight seasons with an now-defunct Atlanta Thrashers before continuing on to the New Jersey Devils.
Kovalchuk’s time with the Devils was mired in controversy, however, as his initial contract with the club was shut down by the NHL for profit cap circumvention. Shortly after, the Devils invited him to some front-loaded 15-year, $100-million deal in 2010. Kovalchuk chose to”retire” three years to the contract to return home and play SKA St. Petersburg, walking away from $77 million due to him from the Devils. New Jersey retained his rights until he turned 35 in April and became a free agent.
Which group has the interior edge to signal the sniper?
According to Darren Dreger of TSN, Kovalchuk is expected to bring a contract term of three years with a mean annual value of $6 million annually. Kovalchuk’s main priority is reportedly winning a Stanley Cup, so expect him to be picky on an expected destination. He completed a California tour June 9 and 10, meeting with the Sharks and Kings — equally legitimate Stanley Cup contenders.
While it’s clear to see the Devils on the board at +600, there is simply too much bad blood between both sides for Kovalchuk to be reunited with his former staff, in my view. Packed with cap space and needing an injection of gift, the Rangers make sense as the favorites, but the value on the Sharks and Kings makes each of them an intriguing option.
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