The Bitter End to the Ilya Kovalchuk "Era"

Martin Rose

This post is a look at how things came to this ending for Ilya Kovalchuk and the New Jersey Devils. From the Thrashers to SKA St. Petersburg, how did it end like this?

Ilya Kovalchuk will never lace up the skates again... at least in the NHL. If you're on this page, you're likely hurt, dazed, and somewhat confused. If you're at work when you read this, you're probably not being very productive. If you're relaxing on the couch, you most certainly have a carton of Ben & Jerry's and you plan on finishing the whole thing. Anyways, if you want an emotionally charged read on the Kovalchuk retirement, I urge you to read John's post from last night.

Kovalchuk played 11 seasons putting up 816 points in 816 games, making him a rare point per game player throughout his career. I'm going to summarize the main event in his NHL career, with a focus on his time with New Jersey.

Ilya Kovalchuk's Tenure in the NHL

6-23-2001: Ilya Kovalchuk is drafted first overall by the Atlanta Thrashers in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft. Kovalchuk was rated as the number one European player while Jason Spezza was ranked the top North American prospect.

In Kovy's first NHL season, he put up 29 goals and 22 assists. While this wasn't good enough to win him the Calder Trophy as best rookie, the Thrashers knew what they were getting.

After his rookie season, Kovalchuk went on to score 30 goals each season, for 10 consecutive seasons, in a row.

10-8-2009: Kovy reaches the 300 goal mark while playing for Atlanta.

Up to this point in Kovalchuk's career, he was heralded as a loyal player for Atlanta and no one really has a bad thing to say about Kovalchuk. He managed to tie for the Rocket Richard Trophy and continuously discusses as one of the best left wingers in the NHL. During the 2009-10 season, Kovalchuk's five year contract with Atlanta began to expire. Talk weren't going anywhere with the Thrashers and Kovalchuk was worth a lot as a rental player. There was all sorts of crazy speculation as Kovalchuk was quietly being shopped around by the Thrashers.

2-5-2010: Eventually, Lou Lamoriello came out as the dark horse and traded Niclas Bergfors,Patrice Cormier, Johnny Oduya, and a first round draft pick for Kovalchuk. Looking back, it was as great trade for the Devils as they managed to resign Kovalchuk. But first, let's look back at Kovy's first goal as a Devil. *cue sad, sappy overtones*

2-12-2010: Kovy's first goal as a New Jersey Devil.


Now, back to the real story. The Devils managed to agree to terms with Kovalchuk to a very long term deal (17 years) worth $102,000,000.00.

But wait, there's more!

9-4-2010: The NHL rejected the contract on the premises that it "circumvented the spirit of the salary cap". At this point, headlines begin to include drastic words such as "saga" and "epic". Devils fans became angry as the Devils were forced to renegotiate a contract worthy of the NHL stamp of approval. Five weeks later, Kovalchuk inked a 15 year, $100 million commitment with the Devils. The saga was complete for now. Now dim the lights, get a box of Kleenex and let's look at Kovy's significant accomplishments with the Devils.

3-20-2012: Kovalchuk scores 400th NHL Goal.

5-25-2012: Kovalchuk scores a huge goal to put the Devils up two and help send them to the Stanley Cup Finals!

The Devils lost in the Stanley Cup Finals but seemed to be on top of the world. However, the summer of 2012 was not all that great to the organization. Zach Parise left for the state of hockey and the NHL locked out the players.

9-15-2012: During the lockout, some players chose to play in other places than the NHL. One popular option was the Europe, specifically, the KHL. Several big names travelled back to Mother Russia to play hockey. This included big names like Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, and Ilya Kovalchuk, Pavel Datsyuk, just to name a few. Kovalchuk even became the captain of the KHL team, SKA.

10-3-2012: Kovalchuk scores his first KHL goal.

10-8-2012: Kovalchuk scores a hat trick while playing for SKA during the NHL lockout

After a splendid time in the KHL, putting up 18 goals and 23 assists in 35 games, the NHL lockout ends. This is where a few red flags pop up about Kovalchuk's feelings about the NHL.

1-9-2013: Kovalchuk states that he will come back to the NHL

1-11-2013: Devils start training camp without Kovy.

However, the New York Times puts up a few quotes saying Kovalchuk may not be committed to the NHL.

Kovalchuk, 29, had cast doubt on his future with the Devils when he was quoted by Russia's Sport-Express as saying that he was "not in a hurry to get to America."

He added: "Time will tell. Nothing is out of the question." He said that he would need to read the new labor agreement before making plans.

-Tom Pedulla, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/14/sports/hockey/devils-open-training-camp-with-ilya-kovalchuk-still-in-russia.html

1-15-2013: Kovalchuk returns after the KHL All-Star game and prepares for the season.

4-25-2013: Kovalchuk's last goal as a Devil.

7-11-2013: Ilya Kovalchuk announces his retirement from the NHL.

7-11-2013: Kovalchuk will reportedly play in the KHL.

7-11-2013: Greg Wyshynski reports that Kovalchuk could get north of $15 million a year playing for SKA.

----

3 years, 5 months, and 7 days. That is the amount of time Kovalchuk spent in black and red.

I'll let that sink in.

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