Ilya Kovalchuk will remain in the KHL — at least for one more year.
This follows reports earlier this week that the scoring forward was going to return to Russia for the upcoming season.
The KHL announced Sunday that Kovalchuk will stay with St. Petersburg SKA for the 2017-18 season, following several weeks of speculation that he could return to the NHL.
St. Petersburg SKA has since announced that it is a one-year deal. That in itself is significant because Kovalchuk could still return to the NHL for the 2018-19 season, and he would do so as an unrestricted free agent at the age of 35. That would allow him to sign with any NHL club he desires.
Kovalchuk, now 34 years old, has played the last four seasons with St. Petersburg. He scored 32 goals and 78 points in 60 games last season. That’s impressive production for a player at his age, and it would be interesting to see how NHL general managers react if Kovalchuk has another productive year and then indicates he wants to return to North America.
Participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics is also likely a factor in Kovalchuk staying in the KHL.
The NHL has already made it clear its players will not be taking part in PyeongChang. The Russian Hockey Federation, on the other hand, has made it clear they want its players to play in the KHL in order to prepare for the Olympics, per the Associated Press.