June 9, 2012; Newark, NJ, USA; New Jersey Devils left wing Ilya Kovalchuk during game five of the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals against the Los Angeles Kings at the Prudential Center. The Devils won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Jim O

Kovalchuk to Return Tomorrow; Next Captain?

After a long, dramatic standoff between the National Hockey League [NHL] and the Kontinental Hockey League [KHL], the New Jersey Devils will get their star forward back tomorrow.

Ilya Kovalchuk, who played in the KHL all-star game on Sunday, appeared to be a shoe-in as the next captain before he came out and said if he could, he would have stayed to play in Russia instead of returning to New Jersey.

On Sunday, when the Devils opened training camp, general manager Lou Lamoriello said that Kovalchuk would not be facing any punishment from the team for missing the first two days of camp and the team will hopefully name a captain before the season starts on Saturday.

Kovalchuk played a major part in the Devils returning to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2003 last spring, despite playing the final two series’ with a herniated disc in his back. Through the two-month-long post-season trek, Kovalchuk scored eight goals and added 11 assists for the sixth-seeded Devils as they outsted the Florida Panthers, Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers.

And with former Devils captain Zach Parise signing with the Minnesota Wild in July, the captaincy appeared destined for Kovalchuk. He was the captain of the Atlanta Thrashers before getting traded to New Jersey in 2010 and was named captain of SKA St. Petersburg in Russia during the lockout.

But, with Kovalchuk stirring attention around the league, several players, including Devils forward Patrik Elias, spoke out against the fact that he wouldn’t be arriving for the start of training camp.

So, if Kovalchuk isn’t named captain because of his reluctance to return to the team that still owes his $83 million, who would wear the ‘C’ in 2013?

Most signs point to Bryce Salvador, a long-standing defensemen that resigned with the Devils after a monster playoff run. Although Salvador could have signed elsewhere for more money, he agreed to a three-year $9.5 million contract a day before Parise chose the Wild over the Devils.

Other indications point toward David Clarkson or Travis Zajac, but both players are entering contract years in New Jersey, and the Devils certainly don’t want to go down that path again.

For now, all the Devils are worried about is getting Kovalchuk to New Jersey. After that, expect decisions to be made on who will replace Parise as captain.



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Tags: Captain Devils Ilya Kovalchuk NHL

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