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|12 июля 2013 года.
Kovalchuk retires to join KHL team // Toronto Star
Ilya Kovalchuk has retired, but only from the NHL.
Exploiting a loophole that will prevent a KHL-NHL war, keep the 30-year-old Kovalchuk eligible to play in the Olympics and maybe even save the financially struggling New Jersey Devils a ton of money, Kovalchuk signed his NHL retirement papers.
He walked away from $77 million (U.S.) over the next 12 years from the Devils. But no sooner had that been announced when Russia's Sport-Express reported that Kovalchuk will play for SKA St. Petersburgh in the KHL, almost certainly guaranteed as high a payday as the one he walked away from.
"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.
New Jersey Devil president Lou Lamoriello said it was all Kovalchuk's idea.
"(The talk) recently resurfaced, the only way he could do that was to sign his retirement papers, which he did," said Lamoriello. "You could look at it any way you want, but this was his choice.
"This was not a decision by the New Jersey Devils."
The official retirement voids the remainder of Kovalchuk's contract and frees the Devils of his $6.667 million cap hit - albeit a week too late for the Devils to sign big-name free agents, including their own David Clarkson, who signed with the Maple Leafs.
"I can't worry about timing," said Lamoriello. "You just go forward."
The Devils will have a $300,000 penalty applied to their salary cap for the next 12 years, according to NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly. That's part of the "cap-advantage recapture" that's designed to penalize teams if players with long contracts retire early.
If Kovalchuk is true to his word, that his desire to return to Russia outweighed his desire to continue in the NHL, this was his only choice.
Had he bolted, the Devils simply could have suspended him, retaining his rights. Had he signed with a KHL team while still under contract with the Devils it would have violated rules governing an agreement between the NHL and KHL not to poach each other's players.
Also, the International Ice Hockey Federation could have suspended Kovalchuk from international play, including suspending him from the 2014 Winter Games in Russia, a tournament he certainly wants to play in.
It's a coup for the KHL. Kovalchuk is by far the biggest name in hockey to have defected to the Russian-based league. Other big names have played there, mostly through the lockout or because they didn't have an NHL contract.
Kovalchuk's 0.51 goals per game in his career (417 in 816 games) ranked third among active players, behind Alex Ovechkin and Steve Stamkos. He was captain of the Devils, praised for becoming an all-round player in the Devils' run to the Stanley Cup final in 2012.
But he's a polarizing individual with few sympathizers, a villain to some for perhaps even causing the 2012-13 lockout. His initial agreement with the Devils in 2012 - 17 years, $102 million - was voided by the league. It had called for Kovalchuk to get $11.5 million some years and as low as $550,000 in later years.
Credit: Kevin McGran Toronto Star