The list of teams reportedly interested in trying to get Ilya Kovalchuk back to the NHL continues to grow.
It was reported on Sunday that the St. Louis Blues, Toronto Maple Leafs and San Jose Sharks (all of whom have coaches or front office personnel familiar with Kovalchuk) were among a half dozen teams that have expressed interest in adding the goal-scoring winger.
On Monday, Larry Brooks of the New York Post added another team to the list: The Columbus Blue Jackets.
Kovalchuk hasn’t played in the NHL since the 2012-13 season as a member of the New Jersey Devils. He retired from the league following that season to continue his playing career in Russia where he was one of the best players in the KHL. He finished this past season with 78 points (32 goals, 46 assists) in only 60 games. Having turned 34 a little more than a month ago it’s obvious he probably wouldn’t score at the same rate he did in the NHL before he left, but he should still have plenty to offer as a top-line winger.
As noted on Sunday, though, actually getting him will be a tricky situation. Not only does Kovalchuk have to follow through with his apparent plans to return to the NHL, but the Devils (who still own his NHL rights) would have to sign him to a contract, then trade him. That is a lot of obstacles standing in the way.
As for the Columbus possibility, that would certainly be an interesting situation. For as good as the Blue Jackets were this past season they could still use an elite goal-scorer that demands the attention of opposing defenses. And while Kovalchuk may not be a 50-goal scorer anymore, his skills should still be enough to strike fear into an opposing defense. Kovalchuk also made significant strides defensively before leaving the NHL and had not only managed to become a better defensive player without sacrificing much in the way of offense, he had also become one of coach Pete DeBoer’s best penalty killers.