Let’s take a trip down memory lane. It is the summer of 2010, the Kings are looking to continue building towards a Stanley Cup and there is a high-profile Ilya Kovalchuk up for grabs. Kovalchuk comes to Los Angeles several times and the Kings are supposed to be the front-runners in the sweepstakes for the Russian superstar.
Kings fans are excited. This is the piece they are missing. A true offensive talent.
Then the clock hit midnight, and Kovalchuk signed a 15-year $100 million contract with the New Jersey Devils. This left the Kings community feeling shocked and confused, once again the bride’s maid and not the bride.
Fast forward to today, the Kings have found their offense in different places and have won their first Stanley Cup in franchise history. Who did they beat to win that championship? Kovalchuk and the Devils, which made that win even sweeter.
Now at just 30-years old and with 15-years remaining on his contract, Kovalchuk has announced his retirement. A decision that will take him out of the game of hockey and cost him $77 million dollars of assured money over the next 12 years.
Here is what Kovalchuk had to say on the situation in a release from the Devils.
“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 in a statement released by the team. “Though I decided to return this past season, Lou [Lamoriello, general manager] 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.”
That should be a punch right in the gut to Lamoriello, the Devils organization, Kovalchuk’s teammates and the Devils’ fan base. After losing Parise last season, and trading away this year’s first round pick it is no secret that Kovalchuk was a major if not the biggest piece of the Devils’ team. Now he is gone.
If this all stems from Kovalchuk being home and playing in Russia during the lockout, it is safe to say this ending was inevitable. The lockout was pretty much a lock, so if the Kings had actually landed him this could very well have been the Kings getting screwed over.
Instead the Kings have Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Anze Kopitar and a core of solid young depth anchored by Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick. All pretty much locked up for a good amount of time. They are not stuck with a cap hit from a player that bolted back home for Russia for the next 12 years.
So all in all, thanks for choosing New Jersey Kovalchuk!