Devils contact Kovalchuk to discuss pending return to NHL

New Jersey Devils general manager Ray Shero has had preliminary talks with Ilya Kovalchuk's agent regarding the former No. 1 draft pick's possible return to the NHL four years after bolting to play in his native Russia.

Shero said he's keeping all options open regarding Kovalchuk's future. The Devils still own Kovalchuk's NHL rights but can't formally sign him to a contract until July 1.

New Jersey's options then would be to keep Kovalchuk or to sign and trade him. And there are no rules preventing the Devils or Kovalchuk from contacting other teams to negotiate the framework of a potential sign-and-trade deal.

The 34-year-old Kovalchuk was a nine-time 30-goal scorer in 11 NHL seasons. He spent the past four years playing for St. Petersburg SKA of the Kontinental Hockey League.

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AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno contributed to this report.

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More AP NHL: apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

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