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Ilya Kovalchuk eying return to NHL in 2017-18, per report

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The former NHL star is playing in Russia.

Philadelphia Flyers v New Jersey Devils Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

One of the first high-profile NHL stars to leave the North American game for the KHL is reportedly hoping to make a return next season.

Over the weekend, NHL.com reporter Tom Gulitti passed along a report from Sportsnet insider Elliotte Friedman that claimed Ilya Kovalchuk is interested in coming back to the NHL.

Gulitti covered the Devils for The Record for some time, so if he’s passing the information along it’s probably OK to accept it. Friedman is also one of the most respected NHL insiders in the biz, so there’s some legitimate smoke behind this fire.

Kovalchuk signed a 17-year, $102 million deal with the Devils back in 2010, the longest contract in NHL history. But the NHL blocked it and penalized the Devils for trying to circumvent the salary cap, leaving Kovalchuk with a 10-year contract instead.

Kovalchuk left the NHL after the 2012-13 lockout to sign with the KHL’s SKA Saint Petersburg. This past season, the 34-year-old racked up 32 goals and 78 points in 60 games. If and when he returns to the NHL, the Devils (or whoever they trade him to) will absorb his $6.667 million cap hit through the 2024-25 season.