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Volume 21 No. 48
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Russian star Kovalchuk signs with CAA, eyes return to NHL

CAA Sports has signed Russian Olympic gold medal-winning hockey player Ilya Kovalchuk and is in discussions with 10 clubs about his return to the NHL next season, his agent said.


The Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers are among the 10, said Kovalchuk’s agent, CAA Hockey co-head J.P. Barry, but he declined to provide any more information about the clubs in contention.


Kovalchuk, 35, has been out of the NHL for five years, playing for SKA Saint Petersburg in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League since 2013. He retired from the NHL earlier that summer, leaving $77 million and 12 years on his 15-year, $100 million contract with the New Jersey Devils.


Kovalchuk was formerly represented by Russian hockey agent Yuri Nikolaev and his Winners Agency for his KHL career. He is friends with some of CAA Hockey’s Russian clients, including Penguins center Evgeni Malkin, Barry said.


Under NHL rules, players can un-retire.


“He would like to win the Stanley Cup and he’s serious about it,” Barry said.


Kovalchuk won gold as part of the Olympic Athletes from Russia team in Pyeongchang. He led the team in scoring with five goals and was named MVP by the hockey media.


Kovalchuk was the first Russian hockey player drafted No. 1 overall when he was taken by the Atlanta Thrashers in the 2001 NHL draft. He has homes in the New York area and Miami, but winning a Stanley Cup is his focus, Barry said. Despite being 35, he believes he can play at a high level for several more years, Barry said.


Ilya Kovalchuk has been playing in Russia full time since 2013.
Photo: Getty Images

“He wants to finish his career in this league,” he said. “You know he spent most of his career in the NHL and he won an Olympic gold and now he wants to win a Stanley Cup.”


Barry’s longtime partner, CAA Hockey co-head Pat Brisson, is representing Islanders center John Tavares, who was the No. 1 pick in 2009 and is expected to be the top unrestricted free agent this summer if he doesn’t re-sign with the Islanders. There is speculation in the hockey press that the Islanders recently brought in former Devils and Maple Leafs general manager Lou Lamoriello to re-sign Tavares.


CAA Hockey also is representing Avalanche goalie Jonathan Bernier, Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson and Capitals defenseman Michal Kempny, who are expected to hit free agency July 1.


BDA SIGNS NBA PROSPECTS: BDA Sports has signed several prospects for the NBA draft, including Georgia Tech guard Josh Okogie, Villanova forward Omari Spellman and Texas A&M forward/center Robert Williams. Calvin Andrews is representing Okogie, Marlon Harrison is representing Spellman, and Kevin Bradbury is representing Williams.


REP 1 SIGNS SPROLES, FALES: Rep 1 Sports has signed Philadelphia Eagles running back and return specialist Darren Sproles and Miami Dolphins quarterback David Fales for representation on and off the field.


Agents Ryan Tollner and Chase Callahan are representing Sproles and negotiated his one-year deal with the Eagles. Tollner is representing Fales. Sproles was formerly represented by CAA Sports. Fales was formerly represented by Athletes First.


Fales was drafted by the Bears in the sixth round of the 2014 NFL draft.


“We believe David has real upside as a starting quarterback in the NFL,” said Tollner, who counts a number of quarterbacks, including the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger, Rams’ Jared Goff and Eagles’ Carson Wentz, among his clients. “He’s a smart, upstanding, team-first guy that can be an ideal backup, but he has the drive and potential to win a lot of games under center.”


Sproles has already broken a lot of records. “Darren is No. 1 in career all-purpose yards for active players, and eighth all-time in the NFL,” Tollner said. “He holds 12 NFL records, including most games with 200 total yards earned — 17 games. Another strong season will add to a unique case for the hall of fame.”


Nima Zarrabi, Rep 1 vice president of marketing, is heading up endorsement efforts for the players.

Liz Mullen can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @SBJLizMullen.