Ilya Kovalchuk’s second run in the NHL appears to be over.
Friday, Full Press Hockey’s Aivis Kalniņš reported that Kovalchuk, after not getting any intriguing offers from an NHL team, will sign with Avangard Omsk of the KHL. Kovalchuk previously spent six seasons with SKA St. Petersburg from 2012 to 2018.
Ilya Kovalchuk’s run in the NHL appears to have ended. Per his agent – he’s set to sign with Avangard Omsk of the KHL, that is coached by Bob Hartley.
— Aivis Kalniņš (@aiviskalnins) December 18, 2020
Kovalchuk did not receive much interest from NHL teams during the opening days of free agency in October. Originally a lock to return to the Habs, Kovy got pushed out of the league after his lack of production in the postseason and a flat salary cap due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’m training to keep myself in shape,” Kovalchuk said in late October to The Athletic. “I talk to [my agent Pat Brisson] all the time, he keeps me posted. But I’m not in a rush. We will try to find the right place, the right fit, that’s good for everybody.”
Kovalchuk did not consider signing in the KHL until the NHL season was mostly figured out, hoping he might land a deal then. He was also concerned about potentially signing with a Russian club and then potentially bailing at midseason, taking away a younger player’s playing time. “I don’t think it’s the right thing to do,” he said.
Kovalchuk, 37, played 13 years in the NHL, tallying 443 goals and 876 points in 926 games. Kovalchuk reached the Stanley Cup Final with the New Jersey Devils in 2012, but ultimately never won a championship.
After a midseason trade with the Montreal Canadiens, Kovalchuk played seven games for the Capitals, notching four points (1g, 3a) in seven games. Kovy said after he arrived in DC that he had wanted to play on the same team as Ovechkin since he was a teenager.
“Since we were 13-years-old,” Kovalchuk said. “We play together on national team, but never for the same team. Usually, we battle against each other. It’s always nice when you’re a little older to get a chance to play together, for sure.”
The Capitals opted to not bring Kovalchuk back and instead are penciling a bottom-six spot for Daniel Sprong, who they acquired in a trade from the Ducks for Christian Djoos.
During his time in the KHL, Kovalchuk is a three-time All-Star and won the Gagarin Cup two times as a member of SKA. He was also named MVP of the playoffs in 2015, but refused to accept the award and passed it to Evgenii Dadonov.
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