It appeared as though we had written the final chapter in the National Hockey League career of Russian star Ilya Kovalchuk, but it would seem that the man himself has a very different plan in mind.
On Friday the Kontinental Hockey League announced that Kovalchuk had come to an agreement with his now former team, Avangard, to mutually terminate his contract. Now you might be thinking to yourself, after seeing Kovalchuk struggle at times in his most recent return to the NHL, that it was simply a result of Avangard not being happy with the performance of the veteran forward but nothing could be further from the truth.
Kovalchuk found tremendous success with Avangard and in fact went on to capture the Kontinental Hockey League's version of the Stanley Cup this season with that organization, a trophy known as the Gagarin Cup. What makes that all the more interesting is the fact that his roster featured a number of former NHL figures that most fans will likely remember including former first round draft selection Nail Yakupov and former Jack Adams Trophy winner Bob Hartley. It was only after this tremendous victory that the termination of Kovalchuk's contract was announced, something that would lead me to believe that it was Kovalchuk's decision and not so much that of the team.
In their comments on the situation Avangard revealed that the move was motivated by Kovalchuk's desire to make yet another attempt at returning to the National Hockey League and capturing the Stanley Cup. Now I don't know how realistic that is as an option for Kovalchuk given that there was relatively little demand for his services the last time he attempted to do so, however if he were willing to return on a league minimum type of contract and fill a depth role on a contending team it may very well be that he would find a suitor or two in the league.
I suspect that, after capturing yet another KHL championship, Kovalchuk now has a burning desire to complete his trophy case by adding his name on the side of Lord Stanley's Cup and forever etching his name in hockey history on both sides of the ocean.