Ice Hockey Ilya Kovalchuk Will Miss Upcoming NHL Season By Charles McCalister Posted on July 20, 2017 3 min read 0 0 85 Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google+ Share on Reddit Share on Pinterest Share on Linkedin Share on Tumblr New Jersey forward Ilya Kovalchuk will not play in the NHL this season, he has opted to stay in Russia and play in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) for 2017-2018 season. The Devils have the rights to Kovalchuk after he retired in 2013 and returned to Russia and remained for four years. Now that he is looking to return, he would have to sign and play for the New Jersey or sign and be traded to another team. New Jersey Devils Open To Forward’s Comeback Ray Shero, the manager for the New Jersey Devils, was very open to the forward’s comeback to the NHL even if he wanted to sign with another team, Shero was willing to make trades to get Kovalchuk back in the NHL and to his preferred team, however, Shero wasn’t willing to sign him over for ‘nothing’. He (Shero) wanted to make sure that Kovalchuk wasn’t disadvantaged by any trade agreement. Albeit for not, as nothing came out of the attempts by the Devils to make trades and Kovalchuk decided on his own accord to remain in Russia at this time. Due to his early retirement, the contract between Kovalchuk and New Jersey worth $100 million for 15 years, was terminated with 12 more years remaining and $77 million. Kovalchuk was then placed on the voluntary retirement list. However, this allowed the Devils to retain the rights to Kovalchuk until his 35th birthday. By staying in Russia for this 2017-2018 season, Kovalchuk, who turns 35 years old on April 15, 2018, will become an unrestricted free agent with the ability to sign with any team, including the Devils on his return to the NHL. Staying in Russia also provides Kovalchuk with the opportunity of playing in the 2018 Winter Olympics as the current NHL players will not be participating.