Ilya Kovalchuk Retires From NHL, Leaves $77 Million Behind

Ilya Kovalchuk retired from the NHL at the age of 30, presumably to play in the Kontinental Hockey League in his native country of Russia.

While the move to Russia hasn’t yet been confirmed, it would make sense, considering Kovalchuk left $77 million on the table in future salary by making the announcement.

USA Today notes that Devils president and general manager Lou Lamoriello stated of Kovalchuk’s announcement, “I’m never surprised by anything that happens in this game… All I know is that he won’t be playing here.”

Kovalchuk has previous experience in the Kontinental Hockey League, having played with SKA St. Petersburg during the NHL lockout. He was the captain of the Russian team and stayed in the country after the NHL training camp began, so he could play in the league’s All-Star game.

The $77 million Ilya Kovalchuk leaves behind is part of a long-term contract. However, that contract is null and void now that the NHL player has filed his voluntary retirement players.

Ilya Kovalchuk announced his NHL retirement through a statement by the Devils. He explained:

“This decision was something I have thought about for a long time going back to the lockout and spending the year in Russia. 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.”

While Kovalchuk has retired, the Devils will still retain his NHL rights. But his departure still leaves the Devils high and dry. The New York Daily News reports that Lamoriello stated, “I don’t take any [positives] out of today. Remember, this wasn’t a decision by the New Jersey Devils.”

Kovalchuk spent 11 years in the NHL and four of them with the Devils. However, those four years were the first of an expected 15-year, $100 million deal. The decision to retire was not met by celebration from fans, including NBC analyst Jeremy Roenick, who wrote several tweets on the subject, including, “Hey Ilya hope u live comfortably in Russia w the money u made from the 23 million u stole from the devils.”

Are you surprised by Ilya Kovalchuk’s decision to retire from the NHL?

[Image by s.yume via Wikimedia Commons]