Kovalchuk off voluntary retired list, officially unrestricted free agent
Happy Birthday, Ilya Kovalchuk. You're now an NHL unrestricted free agent.
The Russian sniper turns 35 today, meaning he's officially off the NHL's voluntary retired list and can negotiate and agree to terms with any NHL team, but can't sign a deal until July 1, per TSN's Bob McKenzie.
Kovalchuk told The Associated Press in March he plans to return to the NHL and wants to play for "several more years" after suiting up for SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL the last five seasons.
In July 2013, Kovalchuk chose to leave the NHL in the midst of a 15-year, $100-million contract with the New Jersey Devils. By doing so, he left $77 million on the table with 12 years left on the pact.
After racking 816 points in 816 games in his NHL career, Kovalchuk remained highly productive in Russia with 287 points in 264 contests. He also won two Gagarin Cups while overseas, and claimed a gold medal at PyeongChang 2018.