Ilya Kovalchuk may be ready to return the NHL, and the Sharks could be one of his suitors.
According to a report in the New York Post, the Sharks are one of “more than a half-dozen clubs” to have expressed interest in the 34-year-old winger, who has spent the last four seasons in the KHL in Russia. The other known teams listed in the report are the Rangers, Blues and Maple Leafs.
Kovalchuk played his most recent two NHL seasons for current Sharks coach Pete DeBoer, where he was also a former teammate of Sharks assistant/goalie coach Johan Hedberg. It’s believed that DeBoer and Kovalchuk had a good relationship when they were together in New Jersey.
Kovalchuk surprisingly retired from the NHL after the 2012-13 season, just three years into a 15-year, $100-million contract extension with the Devils. In order for him to play for another club other than New Jersey next season he would have to be signed to a new contract and traded by the Devils, so the Sharks would have to part with some assets for his services.
Last season with SKA Saint Petersburg, Kovalchuk posted 32 goals and 78 points in 60 games. In 816 career NHL games with Atlanta and New Jersey over 11 seasons, he has 417 goals and 399 assists for 816 points. The six-foot-three, 230-pound Russian native was the first overall pick by Atlanta in the 2001 draft.
The Sharks interest in Kovalchuk could make sense.
The team struggled throughout the 2016-17 season to get production from its depth wingers, as Joel Ward, Joonas Donskoi and Mikkel Boedker in particular all had disappointing campaigns. Patrick Marleau, who scored 27 goals, is a pending unrestricted free agent that could move on this summer.
The Sharks added winger Jannik Hansen just before the trade deadline in the hopes that he would fit on the Joe Thornton-Joe Pavelski line, but Hansen ended up skating mostly on the third line in the team’s first round playoff loss to Edmonton. Perhaps Kovalchuk, primarily a left wing, could be a fit there.
The Sharks have added several players in recent seasons that have played for DeBoer or one of his assistants in the past, including Boedker, Dainius Zubrus, Roman Polak and James Reimer.