Ilya Kovalchuk signs with SKA St. Petersberg of the KHL but his sister hints at a NHL return



As expected after retiring from the NHL last week, Ilya Kovalchuk signed a four-year, $15 million dollar per season deal with SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL. Kovalchuk’s move to the KHL may have been put into motion this past winter when the 30-year old winger played for SKA St. Petersberg during the NHL lockout. In fact during his most recent stint in Russia it was speculated that Kovalchuk wouldn’t return to the Devils at all. But after the KHL All-Star Game came and went Kovalchuk eventually made his way back to the United States to play out the rest of the season with the Devils.

Kovalchuk walked away from a 15-year deal with the Devils that still had roughly $77 million dollars left on the contract. Knowing that you’d think Kovalchuk is walking away from his contract with New Jersey to get more within the next four years with SKA than he would playing in the NHL. However according to SKA vice-president Roman Rotenberg it was never about the money for Kovalchuk, it was about doing this for the “sake of Russia” (via Sovietsky Sport)

“I wouldn’t want to go into the financial details. But I will repeat one thing: Ilya did not do it for the money, but for the sake of Russia,” he said.

“This is a serious thing,” Rotenberg continued. “A player with superstar status, who has a record contract came up and said ‘You know, I want to go home. To play in Russia, to live closer to my family. To be closer to the people and my fans.’ Ilya Kovalchuk is a true hero in this situation. A hero of Russia, I think. The man didn’t want to disappoint anyone. He is a true patriot. What other words can there be?

Kovalchuk’s sister Arina offered up a different reason as to why her brother bolted the NHL for Russia. According to her it was the instability of the ownership situation in New Jersey and the fact that they had a poor chance at competing for the Stanley Cup this upcoming year that a jump to the KHL was made. She further added that her brother plans to return to the NHL once his contract with SKA runs out:

“Naturally, he plans to return to America and perform in the NHL. But the next [four] years he will play in Russia,” Arina Kovalchuk said.

It may not be that easy though. Kovalchuk actually isn’t eligible to come off the NHL voluntary retired list until he’s 35. And once he does do this he’ll still need permission to return by his former team the Devils in which case if this is granted he’ll be an unrestricted free agent for the 2018-19 season.


As far as the reasoning goes behind Kovalchuk’s decision I have a hard time believing he’s going back to the KHL for the “sake of Russia” or he’s worried about the ownership situation in New Jersey. First have you seen the way they throw money around in the KHL? You’d have to think that can only on for so long, unless the Russian mob is funding it in some way (which is probably pretty plausible). Aside from that though this is a flat out money grab for Kovalchuk (and I don’t blame him) who again will make more within the next four years in the KHL than he would in the NHL. That put’s him at $60 million dollars once his deal with SKA is over. Making up the rest of the $17 million before he turns 40 shouldn’t be to hard either whether he does it in the NHL or KHL.

About Adam Hernandez

Adam Hernandez is the founder The Majors Sports Network.

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