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Friday, July 19, 2013
Skeptic's 2012-13 review: Ilya walks away

By Paul Grant

A skeptic's daily take on five things we learned from the 2012-13 NHL season:

5. Ilya Kovalchuk skates: Today, we present you with two problems: On one side, the financially struggling New Jersey Devils. On the other, a homesick Ilya Kovalchuk. The Devils desperately needed cash freed up to stabilize their fragile ownership situation; Kovalchuk just wanted to go home and play but couldn't because he'd be in violation of his contract. So, let's converge these two problems and solve them in a mutually beneficial way. Kovalchuk, 30, retires from the NHL, thereby saving the Devils $77 million over the next 12 years (his contract was signed during the previous CBA, or else more of his contract would count against the Devils' cap). The kicker: the retired Kovalchuk earlier this week reportedly signed a four-year deal with St. Petersburg of the KHL. If you take away the specifics and generalize the situation -- a superstar player retires from the NHL one week, only to sign a deal with another league the next -- it sounds much worse. You would think there would be league-wide outrage. Instead, both sides benefit, with nary a word from the league, which is likely just glad to have the money off the books of a financially struggling franchise. Most important, this all leaves Devils fans in the cold because their team is much worse off without Kovalchuk in the lineup.
Generous take: A player just wanted to play near his family and the Devils were happy to facilitate it.
Skeptic's take: Highly respected and much-feared Devils GM Lou Lamoriello pulls another fast one with the league's passive blessing. Cahoots, I tells ya!