Last night saw IIya Kovalchuck announce his retirement from the NHL, kissing goodbye the remaining 12 year $77 million contract. This now paves the way for a return to the KHL, leaving the Devils to clean up the mess.
The move clears up over $6 million in cap space meaning the Devils can be more active with free agency but Kovalchuck has left them having to pay $250,000 – $300,000 a year in cap-benefit recapture fees for each of the 12 years remaining on his contract.
The Devils did release a statement on the departure of Kovalchuck.
”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 “Though I decided to return this past season, the GM 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.”
I am sure most NHL fans have their opinion on Kovalchuck. Some called him “Kovalchoke” and others screamed from the roof tops saying he is far better than he actually is (a bit like another NHL star we all know Sidney…)
But the truth of it is Kovalchuck posted some fantastic numbers during his 11 seasons in the NHL, including a season where the Devils took a run all the way to the final. Kovalchuck posted 19 points in 23 post season games, proving that he was a great player and one of the few that had his own individual class.
Kovalchuck’s 11 seasons in the NHL were marked with an overall 816 points in 816 games, the definition of a point per game player!
The Devils are going to miss him; although adding Ryan Clowe and Michael Ryder will help this will not compensate for the loss of Kovalchuck. This is especially true with the Devils also losing David Clarkson to the Leafs.
So although this is not a piece of tribute writing it is a goodbye to a great player that I will miss seeing in the NHL (especially on the PP).