Ilya Kovalchuk return to NHL

SKA St Petersburg captain Ilya Kovalchuk was dismissed from his KHL team today. 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.

Kovalchuk threatened to return to the NHL, where he retired from the Devils 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.

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. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly stated on Saturday:

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. 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.

Daly did clarify that the Devils will have the rights to 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].

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