aPRIL 15, 2018 | 8:12PM ET
KOVALCHUK BECOMES UFA, FREE TO TALK TO TEAMS
Ilya Kovalchuk, left wing
Ilya Kovalchuk turned 35 years of age today, and as a result, he has come off the NHL’s voluntary retired list and is now an unrestricted free agent.
While Kovalchuk cannot officially sign with an NHL club until July 1, he is now free to speak and negotiate with teams, and can even agree to terms upon which he can then put pen to paper once the free agency doors swing open.
Kovalchuk last played in the NHL in 2012-13 with the New Jersey Devils before bolting for SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL.
He has been tied to the New York Rangers, with a report from Russia last week suggesting he’s agreed to a deal with club, however Kovalchuk denied those claims in an interview with Russian media outlet Sport.ru on Friday.
Kovalchuk told Sport.ru he hadn’t spoken with any NHL teams yet, and has plenty of time to do so leading up to July 1.
Several teams are expected to pursue Kovalchuk, with the Rangers, San Jose Sharks, Florida Panthers and St. Louis Blues among those already linked. Kovalchuk has an off-season home just outside of Miami, furthering speculation that the Panthers could be a strong fit.
In 816 career NHL regular-season games with the Atlanta Thrashers and Devils, Kovalchuk has registered 417 goals and 399 assists for 816 points.