Fantasy Impact: Ilya Kovalchuk announced his retirement from the NHL today. At the age of 30, Kovalchuk will go down as one of the best pure scorers in the history of the game.
The Devils lose:
One of the best forwards (and, more recently, two-way forwards) in hockey. Kovalchuk is big and strong, and he is also incredibly elusive. His one-timer is rivaled by only a handful of players, and he was the Captain and (by far) best player on the Devils roster. Not many players have combined power (he played at over 230 pounds) and finesse better than Kovalchuk in the history of the sport.
The cap recapture penalty (because of Kovalchuk's back-diving contract) will hit New Jersey to the tune of $250,000 through the 2024-25 season. If Kovalchuk had retired next summer, that amount would have jumped up to $700,000.
If Kovalchuk had played 5 more seasons (age 35), he would have earned $56m ($11.2m/yr) and left #Devils with a $3.7m cap penalty for 7 years
— Mike Colligan (@MikeColligan) July 11, 2013
While he will get paid a lot of money to go over and play in the KHL, this wasn't a financial decision. He is leaving close to $80 million on the table here. This is obviously the case of a player who wants to return home to raise his family and live in an environment he is more comfortable with.
There is nothing stopping Ikya Kovalchuk from playing in KHL because Devils officially terminate his contract. Confirmed. #devils
— David William Naylor (@TSNDaveNaylor) July 11, 2013
Kovalchuk would have eclipsed the 500 goal mark within the next few years (and he would perhaps be there already if not for the previous two lockouts). He will be missed by the Devils and NHL fans in general – don’t forget, Kovalchuk is only a year removed from leading the NHL postseason in scoring.
And while the Devils get a lot of cap space, they still aren't completely off the hook:
Kovalchuk's original deal with the Devils was for 17 years and US$102 million. It was ruled cap circumvention by the NHL because Kovalchuk would have been 44 years old when it was over.
The Devils must forfeit their 2014 first-round pick as punishment for the circumvention after they opted to keep their selections in 2012 and 2013. They will also be charged $250,000 against the salary cap through 2024-25 as a result of Kovalchuk's retirement.
Fantasy Players Impacted:
Would the Devils have re-signed David Clarkson knowing what they know now? Clarkson did leave money on the table from Edmonton to go to Toronto, so perhaps it was the case of a player wanting to play at home (but still in the NHL, unlike Mr. Kovalchuk).
This opens up a lot of cap space – Damien Brunner, perhaps? The Devils will definitely be players on the open market for a winger or two.
Potential line combos (as of right now):
Elias – Zajac – Ryder
Clowe – Henrique – Zubrus
Tedenby – Loktionov – Matteau
Carter – Gionta – Bernier
I'd expect New Jersey to add at least one more top nine forward.
I don't really see this helping anyone, as Kovalchuk was a huge facilitator on offense for the Devils. Perhaps Matteau if he can crack the roster, or Ryder if he is given more ice time on the top line. The Devils are pretty thin on the right side right now.
Fantasy Players this helps, in order:
3. Reid Boucher (long term)
4. Matteau (although he is more likely to play LW or C)
Fantasy Players this hurts, in order:
5. Any other Devil, really
Good luck in Russia, Kovy: