Ilya Kovalchuk has announced his retirement from the NHL today.
This obviously comes as a huge surprise, as Kovalchuk has $77 million and 12 years left on his contract with the Devils. Kovalchuk reportedly hated everything to do with escrow, so that likely played a part in this decision.
Kovalchuk will presumably play in the KHL, but I would think the Devils would need to ok that, as the KHL and NHL have a transfer agreement and Kovalchuk is under contract for the next dozen years.
This leaves the Devils in a real bad place. They don’t have an awe-inspiring lineup and they are without their 2014 1st round pick — which, ironically, they must forfeit as penalty for Kovalchuk’s original cap-circumventing deal. Having Kovalchuk also didn’t allow the Devils to make a competitive offer for Zach Parise, who left for the Wild.
The big money years of Kovalchuk’s contract are actually in front of him, not behind him, so the cap benefit recapture charge the Devils face is a modest $250,000 for a less modest 12 seasons. If he had retired after the 2018-19 season, the Devils would have carried a $4.333 million recapture charge for 6 seasons.