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Three teams that could benefit from a possible Kovalchuk return

Three teams that could benefit from a possible Kovalchuk return clyde via flickr

NHL

Ilya Kovalchuk is looking to the return to the NHL after a four season absence

It has been four long years since Ilya Kovalchuk played in the NHL. He left behind $77 million, as well as a point-per-game average in the NHL.

Now he is eying a return, and one of the league’s all-time prolific scorers could come back to terrorize goalies. However,  at 34 years old, he may not have much time left to contribute to a team.

For these three teams, a short time with Kovalchuk might be enough to jump start a rebuild.

New Jersey Devils

The team Kovalchuk left when he headed back to his homeland could really use his scoring touch. The Devils are consistently stagnant on offense. Kovalchuk put up 201 points in 222 games with New Jersey. With the addition of Taylor Hall last offseason, the Devils would be strong on the left side. The problem is the Devils’ top wingers are, for the most part, on the left side. Putting Kovalchuk on a line with Kyle Palmieri or Mike Cammalleri would be ideal. The problem is the Devils do not have a top center. That could change as the Devils have the number one overall pick in the 2017 draft, plus some extra cap room to add a center via free agency.

Kovalchuk may not want to play for the Devils. But if New Jersey loads up, it might be enough to convince the Russian right winger to stay.

Arizona Coyotes

Kovalchuk would fill two needs for the Arizona Coyotes. One is a veteran role, which is expected to be voided if and when Shane Doan retires. They also need a veteran scorer to compliment their young talent. Because Kovalchuk is on the left side, he would most likely not play with Max Domi. If Kovalchuk made his way to the desert, he could be asked to jump start Anthony Duclair, though Duclair and Domi have proved to be a lethal combination. Kovalchuk could play on the wing opposite Tobias Rieder and a young center like Dylan Strome or Christian Dvorak. It could benefit the young Coyotes forwards to play alongside a confident, veteran producer.

Pavel Datsyuk’s and Chris Pronger’s contracts will be off the books, and the Coyotes will need to find a way to reach the cap floor once again. A large, short-term contract for Kovalchuk would not only benefit the cap situation, but the young talent in Arizona. The Coyotes will look to pick up a top center during the offseason, and it may be a tantalizing option for Kovalchuk to play with top young talent.

Toronto Maple Leafs

The Toronto Maple Leafs shattered expectations this past season. Toronto made the playoffs for the first time since 2013, and gave the favored Washington Capitals a run for their money in the first round. The time is now for the Leafs, and Kovalchuk would play well on the wing with their young centers.

Auston Matthews recorded 69 points in his rookie season. Kovalchuk would benefit playing a with a young, highly talented center to get re-acclimated and gain confidence. There is no shortage of right wingers either. William Nylander and Mitchell Marner pitched in 61 points each, and their playmaking abilities would compliment Kovalchuk’s goal scoring prowess.

Kovalchuk produced in the KHL. He poured in 89 goals and added 133 assists during the past four seasons. The NHL is a higher paced league, but he can still be a top forward.

Kovalchuk can be a huge cog in the Maple Leafs’ development. A short-term contract can make Toronto’s forwards core a bit more stable. He can keep the Leafs at a high level while the talent develops on both ends. By the time a two or three year deal is up, Toronto will be one of the premiere teams in the NHL.

Kovalchuk may not have much time left when he comes back to the NHL. He will return at age 34, meaning his window is about two to three years. Kovalchuk will be a good addition to any team that picks him up. He may not be the high producing forward of seasons past, but he can contribute.

Only time will tell if he decides to make a comeback. If he does make his return, it will change the complexion of whatever team he lands on.