Devils general manager Ray Shero isn't losing sleep over the possible return of Ilya Kovalchuk to the NHL, according to Mike G. Morreale of NHL.com.
Kovalchuk has expressed interest in returning to the NHL, but with the Devils holding the No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft later this month, Shero isn't focused on something out of his control at the moment.
"As far as I know, that's still the plan," Shero said at the NHL Scouting Combine Thursday. "Kovalchuk kind of drives the bus on this in terms of talking to teams or where he could want to play."
The Devils own Kovalchuk's NHL rights until he turns 35, which is on April 15, 2018. He still has 12 years and $77 million left of his 15-year, $100 million deal from 2010. He signed a four-year contract with SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL four days after annoucing his retirement from the NHL.
Shero doesn't plan on addressing the situation just yet because it would be "waste of time."
"I can't go out calling teams because that's a waste of my time," Shero explained. "He's going to tell [us] where he wants to play and in the end, if that does work out and it's not the Devils, then I've got to see if that makes sense for us to do that."
As Shero mentioned, the situation is tricky for both sides. Kovalchuk would need approval from all 31 NHL teams if he were to sign with another team other than the Devils. It would be surprising to see this happen, so the Devils could sign Kovalchuk, and either keep him on their roster or work up a trade.
Kovalchuk's agent, Jay Grossman, does have the right to talk to teams willing to trade for his client. However, Shero made it clear it has to work for the Devils.
If he waits to turn 35 before returning, Kovalchuk would be an unrestricted free agent that could sign with any team without restrictions.
Kovalchuk was traded to the Devils by the Atlanta Thrashers, who selected him first overall in the 2001 NHL Draft, on Feb. 4, 2010. In his first full season with the Devils, he tallied 37 goals and 46 assists to help lead the team to the 2012 Stanley Cup Final.