Lately, there has been some buzz regarding Ilya Kovalchuk returning to the NHL. He has stated that he would like to remain in the NYC metropolitan area, or come down to Sunrise, Florida.
Despite spending the last couple of season in the KHL, Kovalchuk played 12 seasons in the NHL. Eight for the (now defunct) Atlanta Thrashers and four for the New Jersey Devils. His best season came in 2005-2006 where he had 52 goals, 46 assists, and 98 points for Atlanta. He has also had 30+ goals in 9 of his 12 NHL seasons. Its clear the Panthers have not had this kind of goal scorer since Pavel Bure. Adding his scoring power to the team would only generate our offense.
But should the Cats trade for him? Kovy is 34 years old and some might argue that he’s on the decline. However, for a 34-year-old he did put up 78 points in 60 games last season for St. Petersburg SKA (KHL). Again, he has an element to his game that the Panthers have not seen in years. He would also add a booming shot on the power play. Ilya may not be “Jaromir Jagr” but he could add a nice amount of scoring for the Cats.
On July 1st of 2010, Kovalchuk signed a whopping 17 year $102 million dollar deal to remain with the Devils. However, the next day it was blocked by the NHL and he later ended up signing a 15 year $100 million dollar deal. Ilya only played out 3 years of that contract before retiring from the NHL and heading back to Russia. Most Devils fans were furious at this and some called him a quitter. Kovy’s biggest “con” would definitely be his attitude and commitment.
Is it worth it for the Panthers to trade for a so-called “quitter”? As I mentioned earlier, he is 34 years old and even with what he did in the KHL last year, he definitely will not put up those kinds of numbers in the NHL. Defense in the KHL is a lot weaker than it is in the NHL.
There would also be a load of “to-do’s” that would need to be worked out for a Kovalchuk trade to happen. For instance, the NHL would have to approve of his return which is not certain that would be accepted. Kovalchuk can technically become an unrestricted free agent if every NHL team allows of it, which again is not 100%. He can also sign a new deal with the Devils and be traded.
His value is up in the air, so who knows if Florida would want to give up prospects or picks for the aging Kovalchuk. A lot needs to be done on behalf of the league and other organizations, in order to let Ilya back in the NHL. Sit back and enjoy the ride folks, watching what happens with Ilya come July will certainly be a lot of fun.