To some it could be a sad day in the NHL but for others such as the New Jersey Devils it could be a sigh of relief as Ilya Kovalchuck shocked hockey fans when he walked away from the NHL and his 12 year, $77 million dollar contract that was still intact.
“This decision was something I have thought about for a long time going back to the lockout and spending the year in Russia,” Kovalchuk said in a statement released by the team. “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.”
According to multiple Russian media outlets, Kovalchuk will play for SKA St. Petersburg in the Kontinental Hockey League next season.
As a result of Kovalchuk retiring, the Devils will have to pay a cap restructure penalty of around $300,000 until 2024-25 when the contract was set to expire. NHL deputy commissioner Billy Daly said on TSN Radio that this is because the cap advantage on Kovalchuk’s contract was approximately $4 million over the first three seasons of his 15-year, $100 million deal, which was signed in 2010.
During his career, Kovalchuk scored 417 goals and registered 816 points in 816 career games with the Devils and Atlanta Thrashers. He was the first Russian player selected first overall when he was taken by Atlanta in 2001. He was acquired by the Devils in February 2010, and then signed his outrageous contract seven months later.