July 01, 2017

All eyes are on Ilya, too.

Though not a free agent, Ilya Kovalchuk has taken one step closer to returning to the NHL after spending the previous four seasons playing in his native Russia.

The start of the league's new business year at noon Saturday places the Devils in a position to sign Kovalchuk to have him either stay in New Jersey or - more likely - trade him to another team. The Devils own the rights to the 2001 No. 1 draft pick after Kovalchuk left the team to play in the Kontinental Hockey League.

Since expressing an intention to return to North America in May, Kovalchuk has had the Devils' permission to meet with teams and negotiate the framework of a contract. New Jersey would then have to sign Kovalchuk to the agreed upon deal and negotiate a trade with the team.

Devils GM Ray Shero has previously said he's keeping all of his options open regarding the 34-year-old, who was a nine-time 30-goal scorer in 11 NHL season

The expectation is for Kovalchuk to narrow his options based on what teams might be the best fit for him following the first few days of free agency.

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