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NHL Notebook: Jack Eichel says he was nearly traded to the Calgary Flames and former NHLer Ilya Kovalchuk scores first professional goal since 2021

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Photo credit:Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Aleena Aksenchuk
5 months ago
Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel battling it out in Alberta rinks? It nearly happened.
Two years after Eichel was dealt to the Vegas Golden Knights, the Stanley Cup-winning centre said he nearly landed with the Flames in a trade.
“I think as it went on, different teams came in and out of the mix,” Eichel said on the Empty Netter podcast. “At the beginning, there were some teams out east trying to make things happen… as the summer went on, you always hear different teams call.
“Whether it was Minnesota, Carolina, or, there was a period early fall where it was Colorado… but when it came down to it, towards the end, it was Calgary and Vegas.”
Another significant factor for Eichel was that whichever team he wound up with had to be okay with the forward undergoing an artificial disk replacement surgery in his neck.
“The whole medical part of it was definitely a big component,” Eichel said. “The team obviously had to be okay with the surgery I wanted to do, the injury… a lot of things had to work.”
When the trade finally came to terms in November 2021, Eichel was sent to the Golden Knights, with the Sabres receiving Peyton Krebs and Alex Tuch, a first-round selection in 2022, and a second-round pick in 2023. Although Eichel did not touch on the details of how the Flames were involved and to what extent, he did acknowledge that he was happy with the outcome of the trade.
“During the process, there was definitely teams that I wanted to go to more than others, and [Vegas] was one of those places,” Eichel said.
“I was very happy with the outcome. I just thought Vegas checked so many boxes for me… they want to win every year, it’s just a great organization.”
Eichel made his Golden Knights debut in February of 2022 after undergoing and recovering from his surgery, which turned out to be a complete success both on and off the ice. The icing was that Vegas became the 2022-23 Stanley Cup Champions, with Eichel scoring an additional six goals and 26 points throughout the run.
Eichel has recorded 15 goals and 39 points in 35 games so far in the 2023-24 campaign; he’s projected for another 25 goals and 52 points before the regular season comes to a close.

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Former NHLer Ilya Kovalchuk scores first professional goal since 2021

Ilya Kovalchuk hit the ice for the first time in three years on Sunday in Russia, scoring a goal in his first game back.
Kovalchuk played his last professional hockey game on April 28th, 2021, as a member of the Avangard Omsk. Although he never officially hung up the skates and stepped away from the game, a return at 40 years old seemed out of the question.
However, he signed with Spartak Moskva earlier in December to attempt to return to the game he has been a part of for decades. Not only did Kovalchuk contribute an empty net goal to the team’s 5-2 win on Sunday, he helped them gain their fifth consecutive win.
Kovalchuk was originally the first overall selection by the Atlanta Thrashers in 2001, playing his debut year the following 2001-02 season.
After nearly eight years with the Thrashers with 328 goals and 615 points, Kovalchuk was on the brink of a massive deal with the New Jersey Devils that would have locked him in for 17 years worth $102 million. Unfortunately, the NHL rejected and opted to present him with a 15-year deal worth $100 million. He inked the contract on September 3rd, 2010, but left the Devils in 2013-14 to sign with the SKA St. Petersburg.
He returned to NHL ice in 2018-19 with the Los Angeles Kings, scoring 16 goals and 34 points before being traded to the Montreal Canadiens for 22 games, then the Washington Capitals for seven in 2019-20.
Kovalchuk rejoined the KHL with the Avangard Omsk for the 2020-21 season, scoring five goals and 17 points across 16 games. However, he took time off to serve as the general manager of the Russian Olympic team in 2022.
Kovalchuk has recorded 443 goals and 976 points across 926 NHL games; although he never hoisted the NHL’s most prized possession, the Stanley Cup, he led the NHL in goals in 2003-04 with 41 and has compiled a respectable list of accomplishments throughout his time in professional hockey.

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