After Hours GDT (3/23/15): Los Angeles Kings @ New Jersey Devils -- 3-1 L

During the 2009 legal battle over the Phoenix Coyotes, the NHL's constitution and by-laws became available to the public as a result of the court dealings. Section 8 deals with the Voluntarily Retired List, which Ilya Kovalchuk was placed on when he signed his voluntary retirement papers and terminated his contract in 2013. Section 8 is as follows (commas added for increased readability):

8.1. There shall be, maintained in the League office, a Voluntarily Retired List. A player under contract or option to any Member Club may, by notice in writing addressed to the president of such Member Club, express his intention to retire from organized professional hockey, and request that his name be placed on the Voluntarily Retired List of the League. Such notice and request shall be unconditional and shall be signed by the player. Upon filing by the Member Club of the original of such request, the name of such player shall be removed from its Reserve List and placed upon the Voluntarily Retired List of the League.

This happened when the Kovalchuk signed his voluntary retirement papers and the Devils filed them with the NHL.

Section 8.2 deals with players that request to be placed on the VRL and then don't sign the written request for whatever reason and is irrelevant to the Kovalchuk saga.

Moving on.

8.3. A player whose name has been entered on the Voluntarily Retired List shall not be removed from that list within one calendar year of such entry or within one calendar year from his cessation of playing hockey for any team in any professional league in North America, or on a professional or amateur team outside of North America, whichever is later, without the unanimous consent of all Member Clubs.

So, this is where we get the well-known "Kovy needs the permission of all 30 NHL teams to return to the NHL" line. 8.3 states that a player on the VRL can't be removed from the list within a year of being placed on it, or within a year of playing professional hockey, without all 30 teams agreeing to it. But, if he goes a year without playing professional hockey, he can come back without the permission of the other NHL teams. So, say Kovy finishes his current 4-year contract with SKA St. Petersburg (or, hell, "retires" again). A year after that, he'd be free to return to the NHL without needing permission.

But now, Section 8.4 and 8.5 are where things get interesting.

8.4. Except as provided in Section 8.7 of this By-Law relating to professional players reinstated as amateurs, the Club on whose Voluntarily Retired List a player's name has been registered may transfer his name back on its Reserve List at any time after the expiry of one year from the date of registration on the Voluntarily Retired List by filing any currently valid contract, option, or try-out.

So, if I am interpreting this correctly -- and there doesn't seem to be much room for interpreting it any other way -- the Devils can transfer Kovy from the Voluntarily Retired List back to their Reserve List at any point now that 1 year has passed since he filed his voluntary retirement papers, simply by signing him to an NHL contract.

8.5(a). A player whose name has been entered on the Voluntarily Retired List by a Member Club at his request, or by direction of the Commissioner under Section 8.2 hereof, may not re-enter organized hockey, professional or amateur, as a player for a period of three years from the date of such entry without written consent of the Member Club making such entry.

That is, Kovy cannot re-enter organized hockey within 3 years of filing his VRL papers unless the Devils give him permission. Obviously, this by-law does not apply to the KHL and he was probably given permission to play there anyways.

Section 8.5(b) is nearly identical to 8.5(a) and simply states that a player also cannot re-enter organized hockey in any non-player role, either, during the timeline laid out by 8.5(a).

8.5(c). The Central Registry shall automatically remove from the Voluntarily Retired List on the third anniversary of its registration thereon, the name of any player who has attained his thirty-fifth birthday unless before that date there is registered with the Central Registry the consents in writing of such player for the continuance of such registration.

This is where the "the Devils have Kovy's rights until he's 35, and then he can sign anywhere" stuff comes from.

Sections 8.6 and 8.7 deal with reinstatement as an amateur and are irrelevant.

8.9. The club on whose Voluntarily Retired List a player's name is placed in accordance with this By-Law shall, notwithstanding the expiration of the contract, option, or try-out agreement on which its rights to the services of the player existed, have the first option on the rights to the services of such player, which option shall be exercised by the tender to the player by the Club of a fair and reasonable Standard Player's Contract for the current season.

Meaning that the Devils have the rights to Kovy before anyone else while he is on the VRL, should they wish to sign him.

TL;DR: Lou Lamoriello to the other 29 NHL GMs

/r/devils Thread