As soon as the series against the Philadelphia Flyers was over, the talk of where the New Jersey Forward Ilya Kovalchuk(notes) may end up. For Kovalchuk, the thought of signing a new contract is not the most important thing in the world right now. Ilya welcomed his third child, a son, in March. And ever since being traded from the Atlanta Thrashers, he hasn't been able to spend a lot of time with his family.
That is why the morning after losing the quarterfinal series, he was packing his bags to catch an afternoon flight to Florida. Oddly enough, he was watching the KHL finals online when SovSport's Pavel Lysenkov called him.
"Wow, Ak Bars just scored," Ilya said right after he answered his phone. "I am watching the KHL finals, rooting for Ak Bars."
Here's Pavel's chat with Kovalchuk:
Q. What can you say about New Jersey?
KOVALCHUK: We didn't get what we really wanted. And we wanted the Stanley Cup.
I am very upset right now.
Are you going to the World Championships?
We'll see. I will talk to [the coaches] about it and we will decide what we'll do. But right now I am flying to Florida where my family lives right now. At least I will see my children. They have been living away from me since the beginning of February when I was traded to New Jersey. We only spent a couple of days together since then.
Going to the World Championships this time is a huge risk because you don't have a contract. You may get injured.
No one is safe from injuries. If you keep thinking about them, you will most certainly get injured. So, I am chasing these kinds of thoughts away. It will be decided soon. But I have to talk to [the coaches].
You mentioned that you are open to any offers. Is the KHL interesting for you?
I am not excluding an option of playing in Russia. I will study all offers.
Maybe you will go back to Atlanta, where you have a house?
I am going to wait for July 1 when the free agent market opens. And then we'll see. I think everything will be decided very quickly.
A lot of people think that Kovalchuk should not stay with New Jersey if the Devils offer you a new contract. You couldn't find your game there.
Why couldn't I find my game? It is an awesome team, coaches, organization. We just couldn't get it done and go further than the first round. We have to understand what went wrong and work on our mistakes. It happens.
The Devils' head coach Jacques Lemaire said he'd want you to stay.
It doesn't depend on me only. And not even on Lemaire. But it depends on the general manager Lou Lamoriello, who will speak with my agent.
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Where will Kovalchuk end up? It is anyone's guess. One of the most intriguing propositions was suggested by CBC's Jeff Marek - the St. Louis Blues.
I guess we'll have to wait with Kovalchuk until July 1.