The fate of the 2012-13 NHL season is yet to be determined. However, if the season does take place in one form or another, one former star is attempting an NHL comeback. Alexei (or Alex) Kovalev has stated that he has a couple of tryout offers with different NHL clubs, signaling that his comments about a potential comeback are quite real.
Kovalev, who turns the ripe age of 40 in February, spent the 2011-12 season in the KHL with the Atlant Moscow Oblast. Injuries claimed the bulk of Kovalev's season, limiting him to just 22 games where he contributed just six points. Evidently Kovalev wasn't satisfied with his year in the KHL, as evidenced by the veteran's attempt to make an NHL roster in the season ahead.
Kovalev is no stranger to the NHL. He made his debut in 1992-93 with the New York Rangers, a team he played with all the way through a portion of the 1998-99 season. He then skated with the Pittsburgh Penguins for three full seasons and portions of two other seasons before returning to the New York Rangers in 2002-03. His second stint with the Rangers was brief as he moved to the Montreal Canadiens in 2003-04. He remained with the Canadiens through 2008-09. The next stop on the Kovalev tour was Ottawa (2009-10 and a portion of 2010-11) and it then concluded with a second stop in Pittsburgh for a portion of 2010-11. Kovalev then decided to call it quits on his NHL career, signing a deal to play in Russia for the 2011-12 season.
Kovalev is looking to prove he still has what it takes to play at the NHL level. Despite an impressive career of 1,302 games, 428 goals and 596 assists, Kovalev apparently still wants to accomplish more before hanging his skates up for good.
This summer Kovalev has been training in Switzerland while preparing to make his NHL comeback. He hasn't stated which NHL teams have offered a tryout but the fact remains that several teams (at least two) are interested in seeing what he has left in the tank.
Looking at things a bit more optimistically, let's pretend the owners and the NHLPA somehow reach a deal and Kovalev is signed by a team to some sort of contract. What should we expect from Kovalev in a return to the NHL? Kovalev's 2010-11 season, spent with Pittsburgh and Ottawa, saw the winger tally 16 goals and 34 assists. The year prior to that saw Kovalev light the lamp 18 times while producing 49 points. It's obvious that Kovalev won't return to stardom but it is safe to assume he still has a bit of skill left that could be worthwhile for an NHL team to take a chance on. Something along the lines of 10-15 goals and 30-40 points is a safe assumption for Kovalev in a full season, barring injury. He can still produce but his health and ability to endure through the bumps and bruises that are an NHL season cast plenty of doubt over how successful an NHL comeback can be.
Unfortunately, Kovalev's NHL comeback might end before it has a chance to even get started. Unless you've been hiding from the hideous reality that is a likely NHL lockout in 2012-13, you're well aware that we may see a shortened season – if any – in the coming year.