Kovalev was cleared to return to the NHL in June of 2012 after he was released from his two-year contract with Atlant Moscow Oblast. The 39-year old veteran played 22 games in the KHL in 2011-2012, after two seasons with the Ottawa Senators. Kovalev registered 14 goals and 13 assists with the Senators in 2010-2011 in 54 games, as well as two goals in 20 games after a trade to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Drafted No. 15 overall in 1991 by the New York Rangers, Kovalev made his NHL debut in the lockout-shortened 1994-1995 season. Playing for the Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Montreal Canadiens and Senators, Kovalev has 428 goals and 1,024 points in 1,302 career NHL games.
The Panthers are set to open the season on Saturday against the Carolina Hurricanes, with the puck dropping at 7:30 p.m. ET.