NHL notebook: Devils star Kovalchuk stunningly retires
By The Associated Press
Published: Thursday, July 11, 2013, 9:54 p.m.
Star forward Ilya Kovalchuk stunned the Devils on Thursday, retiring from the NHL to return to his native Russia.
The 30-year-old walked away from the $77 million that was left on the 15-year contract he signed with New Jersey in 2010, including guaranteed annual salaries of at least $11 million over the next four seasons.
The Devils announced the news Thursday afternoon, saying Kovalchuk alerted Lou Lamoriello, the team's president and general manager, earlier this year that he wanted to return home to Russia with his family after 11 seasons in the NHL.
“This wasn't a decision made by the New Jersey Devils,” a testy Lamoriello said at the end of a conference call with reporters less than an hour after the retirement was announced.
Lamoriello refused to disclose anything about his conversations with Kovalchuk relating to the surprising retirement.
He also didn't clarify whether Kovalchuk planned to play in Russia's KHL next season — as is expected — or whether the Devils would retain his rights if he reconsidered his retirement, deferring to the NHL.
“All I know is that he will not be playing here at his desire,” said Lamoriello, who built the Devils' three Stanley Cup championship teams and had hoped Kovalchuk would be the centerpiece of a fourth.
Lamoriello said Kovalchuk's retirement wasn't related to anything physical. The forward had back problems during the 2011-12 season and missed 11 games this year because of a shoulder injury.
“This decision was something I have thought about for a long time going back to the lockout and spending the year in Russia,” Kovalchuk, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2001 draft, said in a statement. “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.”
Kovalchuk was to earn $11.3 million in each of the next two seasons and $56 million over the next five years. Lamoriello said Kovalchuk didn't receive a signing bonus, so the team isn't seeking to recover any money from him.
“I am never surprised about anything that happens in this game today,” Lamoriello said.
Kovalchuk spent his last four seasons with the Devils. His best was the 2011-12 campaign in which he scored 37 goals. He had 11 goals in 37 games this past season.
Kovalchuk scored 417 goals and 399 assists in 816 career NHL games. His best seasons were 2005-06 and 2007-08 when he scored a career-high 52 goals. He had three other 40-goal seasons.
• The Coyotes signed center Tim Kennedy to a one-year, two-way contract. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed. In parts of five NHL seasons with San Jose, Florida, and Buffalo, he has 13 goals and 18 assists.
• The Hurricanes agreed to terms with three players on one-year, two-way contracts, signing right wing Aaron Palushaj, defenseman Michal Jordan and goalie Mike Murphy.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Chicago defenseman Seabrook suspended for hit on St. Louis captain Backes
- NHL notebook: Bruins’ Lucic fined $5,000 for spearing
- NHL roundup: Flyers goalie Mason eyes Game 2 start