This one’s a very sensitive subject here among New Jersey Devils fans. There are fans who are still sore from when Ilya Kovalchuk left the team three years into a 15-year contract,”retiring” from the NHL, but in the end, the team is in shambles and could use a shake up. The New Jersey Devils could use Ilya Kovalchuk, as much as it sucks to say.
In the midst of the long rebuild, the New Jersey Devils are searching for offense. The draft isn’t likely to produce any options. Having ruled the KHL for the past four seasons, Ilya Kovalchuk has a pair of championships under his belt and is looking to return to the land where he never won one.
The recently turned 34-year-old Kovalchuk hasn’t lost his scoring touch, netting 222 points in 209 regular season games. That’s the type of scoring the Devils could use. But at the age of 34, how many years does he have left?
There are pros and cons to seeing Ilya Kovalchuk in the Devils red again.
As already mentioned, the man can score. He also won the MVP of the KHL playoffs while in his native Russia. The Devils need MVP caliber scoring if they are to start moving forward. Already having had Taylor Hall, Kyle Palmieri and Adam Henrique on the team, he could bolster the offensive star power. Kovalchuk returning to New Jersey would be good for younger players just breaking out as well. Miles Wood would certainly benefit from some playing time with a former 30 goal a year man.
The Devils have never been a team that has a big name at offense. There was Zach Parise, but he left for home too. The team was blessed with the gift of Jaromir Jagr (cheer him on man), but beyond that, the big names were on defense and in goal. There was always reliable players such as the recently retired Patrik Elias among others who were there offensively but never a big name star.
Most importantly, he can return to the Devils tomorrow, but needs all 30 teams to approve if he goes elsewhere. Why would they approve a guy just to play for another team?
As with all good things, there are bad. There’s a chance he doesn’t even play in Jersey. Maybe he helps out Vegas, or a team already in contention to win the Stanley Cup? Less likely to happen but it is still a possibility. The massive elephant in the room is Kovalchuk’s $6.667 million cap hit through the 2024-25 season. That’s a lot of cap space the Devils need to add other building blocks and they will cost money as well.
The Devils also have to take into consideration that Kovalchuk is going to be 35 next year. He will be under contract until he is 42. There is zero guarantee he will still be putting up numbers at that age. And if he isn’t then good luck finding a trade partner who will eat up that contract. The Rangers don’t exactly try to fill their team with aging superstars anymore, so that wouldn’t be an option.