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Kovy could return to NHL in 2018


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Ilya Kovalchuk will be removed from the “voluntary retired list” upon reaching his 35th birthday on April 15, 2018, and thereby would become an unrestricted free agent if the winger were to pursue a return to the NHL for the 2018-19 season.

This is according to Bylaw 8.5 © and confirmed by deputy commissioner Bill Daly in a series of emails with The Post yesterday in which the NHL clarified Kovalchuk’s status after the Devils voided the remaining 12 years of his contract on Wednesday so he could continue his hockey career in the KHL.

Kovalchuk, who signed his retirement papers in conjunction with the nullification of the remainder of his 15-year, $100 million deal, is expected to sign a contract with the SKA St. Petersburg club for which he played during last season’s lockout.

He would not be able to return to the NHL without unanimous consent of the league’s member clubs before 2018-19 unless he were to sit out for at least one calendar year. If Kovalchuk were to sit that long within the next four years, he would then need the Devils’ permission to rejoin the NHL.

“It would require unanimous consent at any point at which the player tries to return to the League without having been out of professional hockey [anywhere in the world] for a full calendar year,” Daly wrote. “Once he sits out for a full calendar year, he can only come back with the Devils’ consent.”

When Daly was then asked whether the Devils would lose their right to consent to Kovalchuk returning to the league at age 35, the deputy commissioner replied, “At 35, he would come off the VRL [voluntary retired list].”

Thus, no longer deemed retired and no longer under contract, Kovalchuk would then become an unrestricted free agent.

His return to North America in 2018-19 or thereafter is not contemplated and is most certainly not part of a grand design, but then, nobody five years ago contemplated Kovalchuk would retire from the NHL and play in the KHL at age 30.


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The way I read this, Devils don't have a choice if he waits to 35. He's an UFA. Devils only get a say if he comes back before then without playing hockey at all for one year (Only they need to approve). If he plays elsewhere, but comes back before 35, all 30 teams need to unanimously allow it.

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