New Jersey Devils winger Ilya Kovalchuk has retired from the NHL at age 30, just three years after signing an infamous 15-year $100 million contract. (His initial 17-year $102 million deal was rejected by the league) Kovalchuk had $77 million remaining on the contract. $56 million would have come over the next five seasons.
He issued a statement on the club website:
“This decision was something I have thought about for a long time going back to the lockout and spending the year in Russia. Though I decided to return this past season, Lou was aware of my desire to go back home and have my family there with me. The most difficult thing for me is to leave the New Jersey Devils, a great organization that I have a lot of respect for, and our fans that have been great to me.”
Kovalchuk should end up back in the KHL. He played at SKA St. Petersburg during the lockout. He was rumored to want to stay there in lieu of returning to the NHL, with Putin and oligarch cash as a sweetener. [UPDATE: signing will be announced tomorrow] We suspect you will see him in Sochi. A friend who follows hockey far more keenly predicts he’ll be back in the NHL with the Rangers in three years a la Jaromir Jagr.
This is not great for New Jersey. They lose one of their few credible scoring threats for the next few years. They also face additional penalties from trying to circumvent the salary cap with his initial contract. New Jersey assumes a $250,000 per year cap hit through 2024-25. They also lose their first-round draft pick in 2014, possibly a high one, after selecting a player at No. 29 overall in 2012 and trading their pick in 2013.
[Photo via Getty]