Report: Rangers, Leafs among several clubs to express Kovalchuk interest

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Last week, Devils GM Ray Shero said Ilya Kovalchuk was driving the bus with regards to his potential NHL return.

Now, we’re learning where he might steer toward.

Per the New York Post, “more than a half dozen” teams have expressed interest in acquiring Kovalchuk via trade, with two of the league’s biggest markets — New York and Toronto — on the list.

Other known suitors include St. Louis (where Kovalchuk’s former teammate, Martin Brodeur, is the assistant GM) and San Jose (where Kovalchuk’s former coach, Peter DeBoer, is currently employed).

Toronto, of course, is the home of ex-Devils GM Lou Lamoriello, who brought Kovalchuk to New Jersey from Atlanta seven years ago, then signed him to a 15-year, $100 million extension.

Kovalchuk, who just turned 34 in April, hasn’t played in North America since his shock retirement in 2013. He left with 12 years and $77 million still remaining on that aforementioned monster deal, and has spent the last four campaigns with KHL powerhouse SKA Saint Petersburg.

In Russia, Kovalchuk remained an elite player. He’s actually coming off his most productive campaign with SKA, having racked up 32 goals and 78 points in 60 games.

To get him back in an NHL lineup won’t be a simple task. As TSN’s Bob McKenzie laid out here, the only way Kovalchuk could play somewhere other than New Jersey is if the Devils sign him first, then trade him.

But there’s also the real possibility he stays in the KHL, which would allow him the opportunity to represent Russia at the 2018 Olympics.