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Odds on Which NHL Team Will Sign Ilya Kovalchuk in Free Agency

Russian SKA St. Petersburg winger, Ilya Kovalchuk leaves the ice a after pre-game warm up on April 2, 2018 in Moscow.

The Rangers are the +200 favorites to sign Ilya Kovalchuk.

Ilya Kovalchuk hasn’t played in the NHL since leaving North America in favor of Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League in 2013, but the superstar left-winger is set to make his return to the top hockey league in the world this summer as an unrestricted free agent.

When it comes to the odds on where Kovalchuk will land, online sportsbook BetOnline has tabbed the New York Rangers as the +200 front-runners, with the Los Angeles Kings (+250), San Jose Sharks (+300), New York Islanders (+400), New Jersey Devils (+600) and Carolina Hurricanes (+1000) also available to wager on.

Kovalchuk gets a clean slate

At 35, it’s no secret Kovalchuk is past his prime, but he will be a hot commodity in free agency regardless of his age. The Russian established himself as one of the most prolific goal scorers in the NHL in his 11 years, compiling 417 goals and 399 assists in 816 career games. Kovalchuk spent his first eight seasons with the now-defunct Atlanta Thrashers before moving on to the New Jersey Devils.

Kovalchuk’s time with the Devils was mired in controversy, however, as his first contract with the club was shut down by the NHL for salary cap circumvention. Shortly after, the Devils inked him to a front-loaded 15-year, $100-million deal in 2010. Kovalchuk decided to “retire” three years into the contract to go back home and play for SKA St. Petersburg, walking away from $77 million due to him from the Devils. New Jersey retained his rights until he turned 35 in April and became a free agent.

Which team has the inside edge to sign the sniper?

According to Darren Dreger of TSN, Kovalchuk is expected to fetch a contract term of three years with an average annual value of $6 million per season. Kovalchuk’s main priority is reportedly winning a Stanley Cup, so expect him to be picky on a potential destination. He completed a California tour on June 9 and 10, meeting with the Sharks and Kings – both legitimate Stanley Cup contenders.

While it’s understandable to see the Devils on the board at +600, there’s simply too much bad blood between the two sides for Kovalchuk to be reunited with his former team, in my opinion. Loaded with cap space and in need of an injection of talent, the Rangers make sense as the favorites, but the value on the Sharks and Kings makes each of them an intriguing option.

For more betting information on the ice, head over to our NHL page.

Which NHL team will Ilya Kovalchuk play for in the 2018-19 season?
  • New York Rangers +200
  • Los Angeles Kings +250
  • San Jose Sharks +300
  • New York Islanders +400
  • New Jersey Devils +600
  • Carolina Hurricanes +1000
Odds as of June 14 at Bovada