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Devil of a deal: Kovalchuk stuns hockey world with retirement, apparent bolt back to KHL

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."

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Mikhail Grigorenko | New Jersey Devils
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John Vogl

John Vogl

John Vogl has been covering the Sabres since 2002-03, an era that has included playoff runs, last-place finishes and three ownership changes. The award-winning writer is the Buffalo chapter chairman for the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.

@BuffNewsVogl | [email protected]

About Sabres Edge


Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has been covering the Buffalo Sabres since 2007. He is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association and can vouch that exposed flesh freezes instantly when walking in downtown Winnipeg in January.

@BNHarrington | [email protected]


Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz | [email protected]

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