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Friday, July 12, 2013

Devils Kovalchuck Announces Retirement

Wild on Sports
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Devils Kovalchuck Announces Retirement
By Wild on Sports Analyst Jason Gillson

New Jersey Devils superstar winger Ilya Kovalchuk has decided to walk away from the final 12 years and $77 million remaining on his contract, choosing instead to retire from the NHL, the team announced Thursday
After paying to acquire Ilya Kovalchuk with players, picks and penalties, the Devils are now left with a big hole to fill, writes Neil Greenberg.

"This goes back to the lockout, and prior to coming back, his thought process of staying in Russia was there," Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello said in a conference call Thursday. "As you know, he was here a little late [getting back after the lockout was lifted]. Then there was no conversation whatsoever throughout the year about it. Then it resurfaced and his desire was to retire from the NHL, and the only way he could do that was to sign his voluntary retirement papers, which he did."

According to multiple Russian media outlets, Kovalchuk will play for SKA St. Petersburg in the Kontinental Hockey League next season.

"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 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."

Lamoriello confirmed that Kovalchuk's contract is now void. - ESPN New York
Wow. It is a sad day in the National Hockey League when one of its better players, a player very much in his prime at just 30 years old, walks away from the game to go play in another league. This is an absolutely crushing blow to the Devils. First of all they lose their best player, leading goal scorer and only true sniper on the roster. That will be nearly impossible to replace at this point.

What hurts even more is that due to cap restraints (Kovalchuck's contract being a large contributing factor) the Devils were forced to let fan favorite David Clarkson walk via free agency. Had this decision come a week earlier the Devils very likely could have kept Clarkson, their second leading scorer last season.

Where do they go from here? I'm sure Lamoriello thought his team was in very good shape having just acquired goaltender Cory Schneider and bringing back most of a roster that is just one year removed from an appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals. Instead, now he is faced with replacing not one but two 30 goal scorers.

Hmm...a Devils team with a goaltender but no scoring. Time to bring back the trap!

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