Ilya Kovalchuk: Latest Rumors, Speculation on Star's Potential NHL Return

Danny Webster@@DannyWebster21Analyst III

Russia’s Ilya Kovalchuk celebrates after scoring team's sixth goal during the second period action of the Channel One Cup ice hockey match between Finland and Russia, in Moscow, Russia, on Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)
Ivan Sekretarev/Associated Press

There's strong belief within NHL circles that three-time All-Star Ilya Kovalchuk could make a return to North America.

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Hurdles in the Way of Kovalchuk's Potential Return

Saturday, Feb. 27

Complicated rules lie in the way if Kovalchuk wants to make an NHL return in the near future, according to NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, per Scott Burnside of ESPN.com.

"It’s a complicated situation, so unless and until he wants to come back to the National Hockey League, he wants to sign a contract, I’m not going to be able to tell you definitively what rules apply and how they apply," Daly said, per Burnside.

Daly, however, noted the New Jersey Devils—the team Kovalchuk signed a 17-year contract with in 2010—hold his preferential rights.

"I’m not going to opine on exactly what the rights are," Daly said, per Burnside.

Kovalchuk retired from the NHL after the 2012-13 season with 816 points. Four days after announcing his retirement, he signed with SKA St. Petersburg of the Kontinental Hockey League in Russia. Burnside noted recent reports in Russia indicated the team stripped Kovalchuk of his captain status and benched him for SKA's playoff run.

Kovalchuk has recorded 186 points in his four years with SKA, tallying 49 points in 50 games this season. Burnside noted he needs to clear waivers and would need approval from all 30 NHL owners before being reinstated.