Kovalchuk isn’t ruling out a return to the NHL

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Here we go again.

Former Atlanta Thrasher and New Jersey Devil Ilya Kovalchuk hasn’t played in the NHL since the 2012-13 season, but could he be open to a comeback?

The 33-year-old forward’s KHL contract is coming to an end this spring and when he was asked about a potential return to the NHL, Kovalchuk said: “Why not?”

The odds of him returning to the NHL seemed to climb a little bit last season, as he was made a healthy scratch by Saint Petersburg during the playoffs.

Instead of parting ways, Kovalchuk and his team appeared to work things out and he’s now having a great year in the KHL.

To put things into perspective, he scored 16 goals and 49 points in 50 games during the 2015-16 season. He’s already accumulated 16 goals and 36 points in just 28 contests.

If he’s serious about a return to North America, he might have to be willing to leave money on the table.

Kovalchuk’s $5.5 million base salary is the highest in the league and that number doesn’t even include bonuses. An NHL team would certainly be willing to offer him a good chunk of change if he wants to come back, but how high would they be willing to bid for a player who’ll be 34 at the start of next season?

Canadiens forward Alexander Radulov, who’s 30, admitted that he took less money to return and that signing has worked out pretty well for both sides so far.

Also, returning to the NHL next season could be complicated on a number of different levels.

Because he signed his voluntary retirement documents, every team in the league would have to approve his return to the NHL. Should he be reinstated in that fashion, he’d then have to return to the Devils.

The only way around that would be for him to wait until he turns 35. At that point, he’d be able to return as an unrestricted free agent.