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Ilya Kovalchuk Could Become Biggest Name To Leave NHL For KHL Opportunity
Published July 12, 2013
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COLD WAR: In Toronto, Kevin McGran notes Kovalchuk has already signed his retirement papers, "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." 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." It is a "coup for the KHL." Other big names have "played there, mostly through the lockout or because they didn’t have an NHL contract" (TORONTO STAR, 7/12). NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly in an e-mail wrote, "There would be no [contractual] conflict. (He’s) free to sign and play in another league" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 7/12).
DEVILS IN THE DETAILS: THE HOCKEY NEWS' Ken Campbell wrote under the header, "Kovalchuk Retirement A Little Too Convenient For All Involved." With "one stroke of the pen, Ilya Kovalchuk gets out of the last 12 years of his 15-year deal with the New Jersey Devils to go home and play in the KHL and the riddled-in-debt Devils break free from a burdensome contract they could neither afford to pay or buy out." Campbell: "And everyone seems to think this is just fine and dandy, that this is an acceptable way to do business. Well, OK. Carry on then" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 7/11). In Newark, Steve Politi writes this is "an absolute disaster." The Devils "went all-in on Kovalchuk when they acquired him" in a '10 trade with the Thrashers. They "gave up three players and their first-round pick in that draft to rent the high-scoring forward for the rest of the season." Then they signed Kovalchuk to "a massive contract as a free agent that offseason, essentially picking him over fan favorite Zach Parise as the face of the franchise." Meanwhile, the contract to Kovalchuk "so infuriated the NHL for circumventing the salary cap that the league docked the team a first-round draft pick" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 7/12).