Originally written on NESN.com  |  Last updated 7/15/13

Ilya Kovalchuk didn’t make a lot of friends in the hockey world when he announced his early retirement  from the game on Thursday afternoon, but this may not be the last we see of the forward in the NHL. Although he is leaving behind millions – 77 to be exact — to return home to Russia to play in the KHL, Kovalchuk’s sister, Ariana, reportedly said that the 30-year-old star wants to return to America after three years. “Naturally, he plans to return to America and perform in the NHL. But the next three years he will play in Russia,” Ariana Kovalchuk said in an interview in Russia. Logistically, that may not be possible as Kovalchuk will need to get permission to return to the NHL from his former team, the New Jersey Devils, if he seeks a comeback within the next four years. However, once he turns 35, the possibility of a return becomes much more plausible. According to the New York Post: Ilya Kovalchuk will be removed from the “voluntary retired list” upon reaching his 35th birthday on April 15, 2018, and thereby would become an unrestricted free agent if the winger were to pursue a return to the NHL for the 2018-19 season. Whether Kovalchuk has a return in his sights or not — well, we may have to wait 5 years to find out.

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