NHL says Ilya Kovalchuk return ‘complicated’ but Devils hold rights

NHL says Ilya Kovalchuk return ‘complicated’ but Devils hold rights

DENVER – Ilya Kovalchuk missed his third straight playoff game on Saturday after SKA coach Sergei Zubov basically booted him from the team earlier in their Gagarin Cup series. SKA has won all three games he’s missed. 

Speculation has raged that this battle between the Russian star and his KHL team will ultimately result in Kovalchuk breaking his contract and returning to the NHL, where he voluntarily retired in 2013.

According to the Collective Bargaining Agreement and various reports, the path to his reinstatement would lead to one of three places:

1. All 30 NHL teams would have to sign off on his immediate return, and then he would pass through waivers.

2. He could sit out a year from professional hockey, and then his former team the New Jersey Devils would have to sign off on his return.

3. He could wait until April 2018 and re-enter the league as an unrestricted free agent, as his name would come of the “voluntary retirement” list when he turns 35.

But there’s been additional speculation that Kovalchuk could use a loophole that allows retired players to “change their minds” a year after they sign their retirement papers.

So what’s the deal? What would need to happen for Kovalchuk to return?

“What I’d say on Kovalchuk is that there are a lot of different rules that apply to his situation. It’s a complicated situation,” said NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly on Saturday, at the Denver Stadium Series. “Unless and until he wants to come back to the National Hockey League, wants to sign a contract, I’m not going to be able to tell you which rules apply, and how they apply.”

What Daly would clarify is that if and when Kovalchuk returns, the Devils will have much sway over his NHL future.

“What I would say is that having signed his voluntary retired list form, and being on our list, that gives the Devils preferential rights to his NHL [status],” said Daly.


Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.