For the second time in as many months, Ilya Kovalchuk is on the move. The former Devils left wing from 2010-13, who left the NHL entirely in July 2013, was traded Sunday evening by the Montreal Canadiens to the Washington Capitals for a 2020 third-round draft pick, the teams announced.
Kovalchuk started the 2019-20 season with the Los Angeles Kings, the team he signed a three-year, $18.75-million contract with in June 2018, before his Dec. 17 release. The 6-foot-3, 222-pounder signed a one-year, two-year league minimum contract Jan. 3 with the Canadiens.
Through 39 games, Kovalchuk has 22 points on nine goals and 13 assists. He split his production between the Kings and Canadiens, netting nine points with Los Angeles before adding 13 in Montreal, and the Capitals believe the veteran has more left to give.
"Ilya is a talented offensive player who we feel will provide us with additional depth and flexibility up front," Capitals senior vice president and general manager Brian MacLellan said in a statement. "He is a skilled forward who can make plays and contribute to our offensive game."
The Canadiens agreed to retain 50 percent of Kovalchuk's salary and cap hit. He is under contract through the remainder of the 2019-20 season, joining star left wing Alex Ovechkin among four Russian natives already on the team.
His move to Washington comes as the latest bounce in what has been an up-and-down attempted return to the NHL. Kovalchuk spent 2013-17 in Russia with SKA Saint Petersburg, retiring from the NHL despite 12 years and $77 million remaining on his monster contract.
He originally signed an NHL-record contract of 17 years and $102 million in July 2010 with the Devils. New Jersey traded for him in February 2010, prior to the league's deadline, after Kovalchuk and the Atlanta Trashers could not agree on an extension.
Kovalchuk scored 27 points on 10 goals and 17 assists in 27 games as the Devils went 38-39-5 on the 2010-11 season. New Jersey defeated the New York Rangers in six games to take the Eastern Conference Finals before losing the Stanley Cup Final 4-2 against the Kings at the end of the 2011-12 season.
In two full seasons with the Devils, logging 195 games, Kovalchuk scored 174 points on 79 goals and 95 assists. Amid the NHL lockout for the 2012-13 season, which delayed the start until January 2013, Kovalchuk scored 31 points on 11 goals and 20 assists in 37 games.
A three-time NHL All-Star, Kovalchuk's last playoff appearance came with the Devils' Stanley Cup Final run in 2012. The 2001 draft's No. 1 overall pick by the Trashers, Kovalchuk has scored 615 career points on 328 goals and 287 assists since entering the league with Atlanta.
While the Devils (24-27-10) are rebuilding -- most recently highlighted by last Sunday's moves, trading center Blake Coleman to the Tampa Bay Lightning and dealing defenseman Andy Greene to the New York Islanders -- Kovalchuk joins the Metropolitan Division-leading Capitals (38-18-6), who won the 2018 Stanley Cup and are looking to get back.
The NHL trade deadline runs through Monday at 3 p.m.