Ilya Kovalchuk to reportedly sign with Rangers, returning to NHL after 5-year absence –

Half a decade after returning to Russia to play in the KHL, it looks like Ilya Kovalchuk is primed for an NHL comeback. 

Kovalchuk, who signed with the Atlanta Thrashers prior to the 2001 season and played through the 2012-13 season, ending his career with the Devils, will reportedly be signing a 2-3 year contract with the New York Rangers, per Sport-Express’ Igor Eronko.

Kovalchuk’s return means big things for the Rangers, who fired head coach Alain Vigneault after New York missed the playoffs for the first time since 2009-10 with a lowly 77 points. The Rangers announced earlier this year that they were in a rebuild, and Kovalchuk will apparently be a key part of the new look for next season.

Cap space is hardly an issue for the Rangers, who will undoubtedly raise some eyebrows by signing a player that will be 35 on Sunday and that’s been away from the league for five years. Although the money of the deal is unknown, Kovalchuk can help the Rangers hit their floor. Signing on a pricey player would be strange for any other team in a rebuild, but Kovalchuk can help their long-term plan, as they’re estimated by Spotrac to have just under $9 million in cap space heading into the offseason. Kovalchuk can also act as a mentor for the Rangers’ young team.

During his time in the NHL, Kovalchuk was prolific, scoring 417 goals and racking up 399 assists for the Thrashers and Devils. Towards the end of his NHL tenure, the Devils’ contractual practices toward Kovalchuk were met with scrutiny. 

When he became a free agent in 2010, Kovalchuk re-signed with the Devils on a 17-year, $102 million deal. When that deal was struck down by NHL arbitrator Richard Bloch upon the

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