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16 июля 2013 года.
Kovalchuk Signs in Russia // New York Times

Klein, Jeff

Ilya Kovalchuk walked away from $77 million when he retired from the Devils last week at age 30, citing a desire to return to Russia with his family. On Monday, he signed a four-year contract with SKA St. Petersburg of the Kontinental Hockey League.

SKA did not disclose the terms of the deal in announcing Kovalchuk's signing. Alexander Medvedev, the former president of SKA, told the Russian daily Sport-Express that Kovalchuk's earnings would be "absolutely comparable" to what he would have made in four years with the Devils.

Kovalchuk's salary with the Devils averaged $6.67 million a year over 15 years. But the deal was structured so that he would have received $11.3 million the next two seasons, $11.6 million in 2015-16 and $11.8 million in 2016-17. That contract was rendered void when Kovalchuk signed his N.H.L. voluntary retirement papers.

Even if Kovalchuk does not make as much in St. Petersburg in raw dollar terms as he would have made in Newark, he will retain much more of it. Taxes are far lower in Russia than they are in North America, an incentive that has in the past helped induce Eastern European players like Jaromir Jagr and Alexander Radulov to jump to the K.H.L. from the N.H.L.

Kovalchuk, who scored more goals in his 11 N.H.L. seasons than any player during that span (417), played for SKA during the N.H.L. lockout, and Devils General Manager Lou Lamoriello said Kovalchuk had told him during the lockout of his wish to return to Russia.Reactions to his return to Russia varied on both sides of the ocean over the weekend. In North America, the provocative commentator Don Cherry saw the move as a betrayal.

"That's why a lot of people are afraid to draft Russians -- they do what they want to do and we cater to them," Cherry said. "Kovalchuk is just laughing all the way to the bank."

CSKA Moscow forward Alexei Morozov, who played seven seasons in the N.H.L. before returning to Russia in 2004, suggested that Kovalchuk's return might lead to the eventual repatriation of other Russian stars, like Alex Ovechkin, Pavel Datsyuk and Evgeni Malkin. All three recently re-signed with their N.H.L. clubs. But as Kovalchuk's retirement maneuver showed, there is a way for them to leave.

"Ilya is a pioneer," Morozov said. "Before this, everyone was eager to go 'over there.' But against all odds, he came back. Now many young guys will look at this and think about it."

Kovalchuk's K.H.L. contract will expire when he is 35. Under N.H.L. rules, at that age Kovalchuk could come off the voluntary retirement list and become a free agent, theoretically allowing him to sign with any league club. However, the Devils could delay his return to the N.H.L. by a full calendar year under another league regulation.

SKA, founded in 1946 and affiliated with the Army during the Soviet era, has never won the Russian championship. But in the post-Soviet period it was bought by the state energy company Gazprom, which has spent freely on the club. SKA's current chairman is Gennady Timchenko, listed by Forbes as the world's 62nd richest person, with a fortune estimated at $14.1 billion.

On the club's Web site, Timchenko cited Kovalchuk's arrival as important to Russia's hopes of winning the men's hockey tournament at the Sochi Olympics next February. "Do not forget that we are waiting for the Olympic season, and on our team Ilya Kovalchuk, one of the leaders of the Russian national team, will be able to better prepare for this important tournament," Timchenko said. "It will be much more convenient for the coaches of the national team to watch him play -- not just on TV, but live."

The K.H.L. has been growing steadily since its founding in 2008. Last month one of Finland's biggest clubs, Jokerit Helsinki, announced that it would become the K.H.L.'s 27th member in 2014-15, making it the league's first team from outside the former Eastern bloc. The league already has clubs in Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine.

Страничка Ильи Ковальчука на сайте "Звёзды с Востока"


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