Well, most New Jersey Devils fans were probably enjoying their Thursday afternoon until the Devils announced arguably the most shocking and unfortunate news in the history of the franchise. Ilya Kovalchuk announced his retirement from the NHL at a mere 30 years of age.
So how will Devils fans react? It’s been a common occurrence for a player on the Devils to sign with a team closer to home as of late. Kovalchuk is simply following the trend.
Stating that the Devils invested so much in Kovalchuk is a vague statement, so here’s the cost of Kovalchuk's leave broken down.
First, the Devils traded Johnny Oduya, Niclas Bergfors, Patrice Cormier, a second-round pick and a first-round pick in exchange for Kovalchuk at the 2010 trade deadline (They also received a second-round pick and Anssi Salmela). At the time Kovalchuk had one year remaining on his contract that paid him $7.5 million.
When Kovalchuk’s contract expired at the end of the 2009-2010 season, controversy erupted when the Devils re-signed him to a 17-year $102 million contract. The league rejected the contract because it was back-loaded and circumvented the NHL’s salary cap. Then the NHL amended its CBA to disallow other organizations from utilizing this loophole. This was also a major topic in the lockout that shortened this season.
Because of the contract mishap, the Devils were forced to forfeit $3 million, a third-round draft pick and a first-round draft pick that the team has elected to get rid of next season.
So put all together, the Devils invested: Johnny Oduya, Niclas Bergfors, Patrice Cormier, a second-round pick, two first-round picks, a third-round pick, a $3 million fine, $23 million in salary and a large fight with Gary Bettman and the NHL which eventually caused rule changes to be made in the CBA.
That’s a lot for one player.
It’s safe to say that this list was not worth it, considering that Kovalchuk retired with 12 years and $77 million remaining on his contract.
The Devils’ fanbase has a reason to be upset; it put so much time and effort into a franchise player only to feel betrayed by him and watch him walk right out the door.
But what should the Devils do moving forward?
Courtesy of Tom Gulitti, General Manager Lou Lamoriello puts it simply. “Certainly we’re going to put the best possible team we can on the ice," said Lamoriello. "That’s the most important thing.“
The Devils are a top-notch organization, and Lamoriello does not like to live in the past, he likes to look into the future and is always looking for ways to improve his team.
After making a splash already this offseason, don’t assume Lamoriello and the Devils are done making moves. With Kovalchuk’s contract expiring, the team will have ample cap space to work with.