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|12 июля 2013 года.
Devs' Kovalchuk retires, leaving $77M on table // New York Post
The 17-year nullified contract that became a 15-year deal ended yesterday after just three years. That's three years (plus a part of a preceding fourth) in New Jersey and out for Ilya Kovalchuk, who has ended his NHL career at the age of 30 to return to his Russian homeland and a career in the KHL.
Three seasons under the $100 million contract that followed the Devils' prosecution/persecution by the league and conviction in an arbitrated hearing that cost the franchise a penalty of $3 million, a third-round draft pick in 2011 and a first-round draft pick in 2014 unless the court shows entirely unexpected mercy and grants New Jersey a pardon on the final phase of the punishment.
Three seasons in which the Devils missed the playoffs twice (after no previous misses since 1996) sandwiched around a trip to the Stanley Cup finals, in which New Jersey was beaten in six by the Kings with Kovalchuk - the club's best player - rendered all but useless by a serious back injury.
What to make of this saga given all the ramifications, franchise czar Lou Lamoriello was asked by The Post during a conference call yesterday afternoon that took place while aftershocks of the announcement reverberated throughout the hockey world?
"It's very difficult to say anything," said Lamoriello, who, we're told, was well aware of Kovalchuk's intent prior to the July 5 opening of the free-agent market.
Asked then by The Post if he could regard the totality of the three years as a positive experience, Lamoriello said, "By the way you presented the question, I'll let you answer that."
Here's the math: The Devils paid Kovalchuk $6 million in each of the first two years of the contract, then were due to pay him $11 million last year that became $6.44 million because of the lockout. They were due to pay him $34.2 million over the next three years and $56 million over the next five - money that never will be spent with the contract declared null-and-void in conjunction with Kovalchuk signing his retirement papers.
More math: Kovalchuk's cap hit of $6.667 million comes off the books, replaced by an annual cap-recapture charge believed to be $250,000 through 2024-25.
Of course, even as the Devils' financial commitment became diminished, so, too, did the team. Ownerships present and future may have saved the remaining $77 million on the contract, but the team lost its best and most exciting player.
(By the way: Regardless of popular opinion, Kovalchuk and his contract cannot be blamed for Zach Parise's 2012 free-agent defection to Minnesota. The Devils repeatedly approached Parise about signing a long-term extension. The captain consistently deferred, always in his heart believing there was no place like home.)
"I don't take any positives out of [this] right now," Lamoriello said. "I'm not here to talk about positives or negatives.
"I'm looking forward. I'm not going to let anything get in the way of what might have to be done. I won't be distracted. Right now we have to take a step backward to take a step forward.
"Remember, this was not a decision by the New Jersey Devils."
No, this was a unilateral decision made by Kovalchuk, who was reluctant to return to the NHL at the conclusion of the lockout, and indeed reported late after receiving permission from the Devils to play in the KHL All-Star Game. He will now pick up his career with SKA St. Petersburg for a tidy sum.
Stunning, this is and has been. The entire Kovalchuk Saga, from the beginning - when the Devils traded Johnny Oduya, Patrice Cormier, Niclas Bergfors and a 2010 first-rounder to Atlanta for the winger and a second-rounder on Feb. 4, 2010 - to the end. Stunning, except not to Lamoriello.
"I'm never surprised by anything that happens in this game," he said.