Kovalchuk still planning NHL return, says Shero

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There’s nothing new on the Ilya Kovalchuk front, and that’s news in itself.

In an interview with NJ Advance Media, Devils GM Ray Shero called a report that Kovalchuk had decided to stay in Russia false.

Shero based his assertion on conversations with Kovalchuk’s agent, Jay Grossman.

“There was some report out of Russia that he might be staying over there, and Jay goes ‘No, that’s not accurate at all,'” Shero said. “He talked to him the day before and nothing’s changed. So if something changes, I’ll hear about it, or Jay will, but nothing’s changed from what Jay’s told me on two occasions now.”

Kovalchuk can’t sign an NHL contract until July 1. The plan is still for him to pick a team, at which point the Devils would orchestrate a sign-and-trade.

“If it’s not New Jersey, he’s going to have a number of teams that he’ll want to talk to, and then those teams can deal with him,” Shero said. “If that’s the place he wants to go and it’s not going to be New Jersey, then we’ll approve it, sign the contract and make a deal with the team.”

Related: Kovalchuk ‘drives the bus’ in return to NHL