By Mike Harrington
The Ilya Kovalchuk contract, a 15-year, $100-million monstrosity signed in 2010, might be the single biggest reason we lost half a season -- and nearly an entire one -- to a lockout. It was voided in stunning fashion today and not for any further rules violation.
Kovalchuk, the talented but enigmatic Russian who told me "who cares about goals?" after scoring an overtime winner here in 2010, has stunned the hockey world by announcing his retirement at age 30 -- with still 12 years and $77 million left on the deal. Of course, he's not really retiring, as there's already plenty of chatter he's going to play next year in the KHL. His statement through the Devils cited family reasons for his decision.
The Devils, remember, lost their first-round pick for next year as a penalty for Kovalchuk's initial 17-year, $102 million deal the league wouldn't authorize. His annual cap hit of nearly $6.7 million is gone with no post-age 35 recapture penalty.
That's all fine and well but think the Devils would have liked to have known this prior to the free agency period opening July 5? They could have gone elsewhere for help. They might have even kept David Clarkson. Just a selfish move by a selfish hockey player.
Sabres center Mikhail Grigorenko had just come off the ice at development camp this afternoon when he heard the news about one of his Russian idols.
"I don't understand. I was thinking is that some kind of joke or something," Grigorenko told me. "I'm really shocked. He's my favorite player in the NHL. He's a really good player and I was hoping he would keep playing in the NHL."
taggedMikhail Grigorenko | New Jersey Devils