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Ilya Kovalchuk's stunning contract with the Devils: By the numbers

Jul 19, 2010, 8:41 PM EDT

ilyakovalchuk6.jpgRich Chere from the Newark Star-Ledger is the bearer of bad news for fans of fiscal responsibility as we know it as he gives us the official not-yet official (Tom Gulitti tweets that it’s not official yet but the NHL approving it won’t be an issue) contract numbers on the deal signed by Ilya Kovalchuk with the New Jersey Devils. Take a look at how things break down.

Ilya Kovalchuk’s blockbuster 17-year contract with the Devils is finally complete and approved by the NHL.

Here are the details of the deal, which has been filed with the NHL and NHL Players’ Association:

2010-11: $6 million
2011-12: $6 million
2012-13: $11.5 million
2013-14: $11.5 million
2014-15: $11.5 million
2015-16: $11.5 million
2016-17: $11.5 million
2017-18: $10.5 million
2018-19: $8.5 million
2019-20: $6.5 million
2020-21: $3.5 Million
2021-22: $750,000
2022-23: $550,000
2023-24: $550,000
2024-25: $550,000
2025-26: $550,000
2026-27: $550,000

Obviously, the most laughable part of it all is how the final five years of the contract pay out at a paltry $550,000 a year. Of course, those years are when Kovalchuk would be between the ages of 39-44 and could very well be done with hockey by that point, thus making it much easier for the Devils (or anyone else) to buy out his contract for an amount that won’t do anything to fudge with a team’s salary cap.

As for the meat and bones of the deal, think about this, when Ilya Kovalchuk is 34 years-old, he’ll be making $10.5 million that season. While the cap hit is all that matters in NHL economics it’s still an absolutely staggering number and one that not a lot of folks are too pleased with. Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune was one of the first to break the rumored and now official numbers and sounded off about the nature of deals like this and the snark is warm.

Take Ilya Kovalchuk’s contract: He signed a deal today with New Jersey for $102 million over 17 years for an annual cap hit of $6 million. He’s allegedly going to play until he’s 44, averaging $583,000 a year the final SIX years of his contract.

The NHL is allegedly “investigating” drastically-frontloaded contracts like Chris Pronger’s, Roberto Luongo’s, Marian Hossa’s, Johan Franzen’s and Henrik Zetterberg to see if there is any evidence of talk of retirement.

Even writing that sentence, I literally laughed out loud.


What’s stunning about this truly incredible deal is that this is all working on the assumption that the league won’t be locked out two or even three times by the time the deal reaches those waning years where Kovalchuk will be making what amounts to be the league minimum.

To put this in some kind of bizarro perspective, simply put, for the kind of player that the NHL has never seen reach unrestricted free agency, a bonafide superstar with talent beyond belief, it’s only fair that we’re seeing a mind-bending contract the likes of which we’ve never seen before and likely never will again. Even in the gigantic contracts used to sign the likes of Henrik Zetterberg, Chris Pronger and Marian Hossa, we’ve not seen one that had the numbers jump and dive so much before all in an effort to keep both the cap number down and to make the deal as pain-free for the signing team when the player reaches his twilight seasons.

Of course, not a lot of that means squat to most fans. They see a contract that goes on for an enternity that has an ultimate total that goes into nine (!!!) figures and in a league where greatness is appreciated while the fans still have some sense of grounded modesty, the reverberations are huge. While Ilya Kovalchuk might be on the fringe of the media spotlight in New Jersey, he’s now the major superstar the Devils franchise has never had before and he’s their guy for the next 17 seasons. Here’s to hoping that the Hockey Gods don’t frown upon a superstar getting rewarded.

  1. saget - Jul 19, 2010 at 9:46 PM

    Its a minor point, but this contract (and any other contract that is “front loaded” in any way), will not be a good candidate to be bought out. It ONLY works for the Devils if he retires.
    For example, if he was bought out after the first ten years – it would result in cap hits for the Devils as follows:
    2020-21 (Year 11): $2,830,000
    2021-22 (Year 12): $5,580,000
    2022-23 (Year 13): $5,780,000
    2023-24 (Year 14): $5,780,000
    2024-25 (Year 15): $5,780,000
    2025-26 (Year 16): $5,780,000
    2026-27 (Year 17): $5,780,000
    There will also be minor hits over the following 7 years of $330,000 each.
    The CBA has this huge retirement loophole, but it DOES have the right system to penalize buyouts for front-loaded contracts.

  2. Ron Telle - Jul 20, 2010 at 2:19 AM

    What a waste of money. Why not give it to someone that needs it? No one in the world needs 6 million a year to live. Sad.

  3. arejaye - Jul 20, 2010 at 2:40 AM

    17 years, 105 MILLION? what da puck?????? whoever sealed that deal outta be taken back o’ the shed, and shot. end of story. that’s just stupid, repeat S T U P I D

  4. Anonymous - Jul 20, 2010 at 4:08 AM

    Imagine what that money would do for education or health care for kids in that area.
    At least this guy will probably waste all of it and put it back into the economy.

  5. Funny - Jul 20, 2010 at 4:25 AM

    Nobody *needs* $6mil, however the game commands a lot of money. It’s an industry and without the players it would not exist. You’d rather the owner of the team make billions and pay his players nothing? Who cares how much they’re paid, this is a capitalist society. I’m sure they give plenty to charity, and they pay quite a bit in taxes.

  6. Debbie McCarten - Jul 20, 2010 at 4:26 AM

    With so many many people going without food and shelter and medical care and suffering the desperation of not being able to take of their children it seems ludicrous that one human being receives this insane amount of money for hitting a puck……………….
    our priorities are so out of whack……………………….does this sports star give away any of his money to help the poor out of work Americans who are without even money for food?
    Even in this economy where our leaders in Washington DC are voting to cut off unemployment benefits that are barely enough to feed a person this one sports star signs a contract for millions upon millions….
    unbelievable!!! such arrogance from politicians, sports stars and the movie industry………………..why not just come out and spit in peoples faces as you eat steak and they sit in church and pray for that unemployment check so they can each boxed mac and cheese?
    How can so many care so little about something so basic to all…..the right to life.

  7. DK - Jul 20, 2010 at 6:02 AM

    Those people should have learned to play hockey, then they could potentially have 6 million/year. But don’t despair, here’s something that will surely make you smile – if he makes 6 million, then the various governments will make at least 3 million!

  8. RJ - Jul 20, 2010 at 6:41 AM

    “a bonafide superstar with talent beyond belief” – Give me a break. He’s good, but he’s not great. There are plenty of other players in the league that have outperformed him and will continue to do so. He’s not worth half of that amount and only shopped around for money. He didn’t care what team he was with as long as he was bringing in the most cash.
    And for everyone complaining about the US economy – go get a college degree and quit your complaining. No one is holding you hostage. If you don’t like it here, go somewhere else. Yes, millions of people are unemployed, but how many of those are sitting on their asses and collecting unemployment? How many have applied for social security and disability? And how many of the gulf employees haven’t applied for bailouts from BP because they’ve grossly under-reported their incomes to the IRS?
    But then again, I forgot that everyone is just so moral and ethical in everything they do. Give me a break.

  9. Woodward - Jul 20, 2010 at 7:04 AM

    Seriously. What does the state of US economics have to do with Kovy’s contract? If you want to whine, go look at the NFL or MLB salaries. These are athletes whose bodies break down. This is his career. It’s not just about feeding his growing family today…it’s about his post career as well.
    I don’t know how to feel about this deal. I haven’t been all that impressed with his performance the past year, so I wish the Devils the best of luck.

  10. Dave S - Jul 20, 2010 at 7:14 AM

    Are the “gripers” on here also sendng messages about how absurd it is that Judge Judy makes $45 million a year to do a 30-minute TV show? Do we even want to mention Oprah? Or that biggot Mel Gibson that makes huge numbers? The Walmart clan? Buffet?
    Don’t drag starving children of the world into sports when there are other areas making FAR more than lowly hockey players.

  11. Matt - Jul 20, 2010 at 8:02 AM

    I love sports, especially the comments made by ignorant (99.99999999999999% of them) sports fans. First, the 102 million is if he is there for all 17 years. The big money comes in when he is supposedly going to be producing the most and he is getting over the cap for a lot of them. If he were Paul Newman and getting paid $25 million for a single movie, nobody would say squat. Arguing about the money being too much is as intelligent as a sports fan; NOT.
    After all, this last season showed most people that Marty doesn’t have much longer on his career, so they better do something to get the scoring up big time.

  12. grimjack - Jul 20, 2010 at 8:03 AM

    Can you morons tell me what an NHL player contract has to do with unemployment or starving children? The sport makes money, and therefore the players make money. If you are unemployed, you probably didn’t have a job that people would pay money to see. Or you are T.O. For all you know, he could be giving half his salary to charity. The NHL and Devils probably do have events or charities they give their money or suport. Are you suggesting we eliminate all major sports, and have the people that buy tickets give their money to the unemployed?

  13. lumberjack - Jul 20, 2010 at 8:05 AM

    Well folks, here is my take on all the outrageous salaries these sports guys are making. Stop going to the games and paying those rediculous HIGH ticket prices and you will be surprized how quickly their salaries will drop. What do you say???????

  14. TominMA - Jul 20, 2010 at 8:17 AM

    Im not a hockey fan, but this is an absolutely STUPID contract by the NJ Devils! I wonder how they justified it top the bean counters. They had BETTER have sellouts for a VERY long time! Think Belichick would ever hand out this kind of contract???

  15. Rick - Jul 20, 2010 at 8:29 AM

    It’s nice that everyone is concerned with hungry children, the sick and the elderly. The problem is that the only way that money like this can be used to help them is either to donate it or to raise taxes. I don’t know of anyone volunteering to pay higher taxes. Hopefully we all make at least minor contributions to good causes, but no one is going to take the money they spend on season tickets and donate it to charity. It’s just not realistic. Not to mention that the economics of sports go way beyond just season ticket sales. The networks aren’t going to give the money they pay for rights fees to any charities. The people who buy jerseys and other products, while they may give, won’t do it instead of buying products.

  16. popi0721 - Jul 20, 2010 at 8:52 AM

    All the complaining is ridiculous. We have no one to blame but ourselves. WE are buying the tickets, the products, etc. Any one of us would gladly take the same deal if we had the same talent. As long as sports fans continue to support professional sports at the level we do, nothing is going to change. Don’t blame the athletes.

  17. in FLORIDA - Jul 20, 2010 at 8:53 AM

    The stupidest argument about this guy’s contract I’ve seen yet is the one about how their bodies break down and they only have earning potential for “x” number of years. Can’t they get a JOB after playing a kids game for most of their life? Then again, that would require responsibility and actually having a marketable skill to the working world. Face it, this country has long been screwed up in the money it pays to sports people, movie stars, etc. It’ll never be fixed, so quick complaining about it. If you want to DO something about it, quit going to see their movies, quit filling the seats in the arenas, and quit buying the products the sponsors make which have to be over-priced in order to generate the revenue to pay the outrageous salaries.
    Oh wait, can’t do that. That would require sacrifice on YOUR part.

  18. Kevin - Jul 20, 2010 at 8:57 AM

    Well, looks like Kovalchuk isn’t too concerned about winning the Cup apparently. The Devils aren’t going anywhere any time soon with Brodeur still between the pipes (a playoff choker the past three years, showing that he’s truly on the decline) and the Devils haven’t done much to groom anyone to be his replacement. The rest of the supporting cast on the Devils beyond players like Zach Parise isn’t all that impressive.

  19. Anonymous - Jul 20, 2010 at 9:04 AM

    you could always become his maid! It would be one way to feed the homeless wuth his money.

  20. Anonymous - Jul 20, 2010 at 9:29 AM

    FLORIDA you’re an idiot. Why are you on a sports site anyway?

  21. Joebob - Jul 20, 2010 at 10:12 AM

    What would it do for education and healthcare? Not much. You see NJ taxpayers and particularly residents of Essex county already pay some of the highest taxes in the nation to subsidize the education and other social programs in Newark. 100’s of millions are already being pumped into the Newark area. As is the revenue generated by the Newark Arena, the Devils and their players. By and large that money is completely wasted. Many people there don’t value their educational opportunities and instead focus on being Mr pants on the ground gang members. They allow the majority of their city to deteriorate into an urban nightmare of murder and drugs, and you whine about giving someone else’s earned money (that’s right he earned it by working hard his whole life at something) to them.
    On the other hand, Kovy will buy a house or 3 and pump that money back into the economy. Not to mention the outrageous tax bill he will have (unless he decides to commute from Delaware).
    so save your “what could newark do with that 100 million” crap…they get more than they deserve already.

  22. Joebob - Jul 20, 2010 at 10:15 AM

    “does he give some of his money away”?
    Yes, in the form of approx. 50% tax bill.
    So quit your whining, his $45million tax bill is more than you or your entire family tree will ever contribute to those poor kids.

  23. Actual Hockey Player - Jul 20, 2010 at 10:39 AM

    In Florida: A Kids game for most of their life? Your a complete joke. I’d like to see you lace up a pair of skates and go up against the best hockey players in the world. I Bet you end up in the hospital, maybe worse…deservedly so.
    For the guy who said he is not a hockey fan, your comment clearly shows the truth in that. The Devils are only paying him ON AVERAGE 6m/yr. Since the last CBA came into effect the Devils and every other team in the NHL has been paying between 50 and the current 59 million dollar Salary Cap for the whole team (the Cap tends to increase per season). I don’t think Kovy’s contract is dependant on sell outs…
    Since your not a fan (this goes for the rest of you that clearly have no clue what your talking about, Debbie) don’t read the article, or at least don’t comment on it. It just shows your utter incompentence. But then again this is an online message board and we all know Americans LOVE to bash and bash on people that don’t line up with their opinion. Luckly for me, I am an ice hockey player with a DEEP love and passion for this sport, not to mention a great knowledge of the sport. So I have earned the right to bash 😉.

  24. BC - Jul 20, 2010 at 10:47 AM

    How many o’s are there in stooooooooooooooooooooopid?

  25. Joebob - Jul 20, 2010 at 10:56 AM

    Lou Lamoriello is widely considered to be one of the most astute GM’ in all of sports. He has built a consistent winner in the Devils (3 cups and, several divisions, decade + long playoff streak).
    He is far from stoooopid. He gave the Devils exactly what they needed this offseason: volchenkov, arnott, and a sniper/superstar in kovalchuk.

  26. NYISLANDER - Jul 20, 2010 at 10:58 AM

    You guys have to be kidding me… Take a look at the money players in more “marketable” sports make, and then tell me he doesn’t deserve this money.. Tracy McGrady made $23.4 mil last season, A-Rod makes $33 mil a year, and Kovalchuk, who plays the most physically demanding sport in existence, outside of perhaps rugby, will make around 1/2 and 1/3 of those, respectively, and that’s at the peak of his contract! Whether or not it’s a smart move is debatable, but the fact that this guy deserves this kind of money is not. You go out there and get hit everyday by the likes of Zdeno Chara and tell me he doesn’t deserve half of what a basketball player makes, please. And In Florida, I don’t see you complaining about the money that Lebron and Wade will be making these next few years. As for the intelligence behind this move, I hope for the Devil’s sake it doesn’t turn into A Rick DiPietro situation for them.

  27. Jay - Jul 20, 2010 at 11:36 AM

    Paul Newman is dead…so I would have a huge problem with him getting $25mil :-)

  28. Peter - Jul 20, 2010 at 11:55 AM

    Why is it we hear all this moaning groaning b*tching and complaining about player contracts but never that Angie Jolie is making $20 million to make a movie?

  29. Brian - Jul 20, 2010 at 12:04 PM

    One other small issue. Hockey is a team sport. The Gretsky’s, Lemieux’s, Howe’s, Ovechkin’s etc of the world couldn’t have chaulked up what they’ve done without playing as a part of a team (offense and defence). Kovy has no concept of this concept throughout his career. His idea of defense is doing figure – 8’s around his blue line waiting for an outlet pass. Backchecking????? LOL!!! An NHL career +/- of -8??? Uncle Lou, you just buried your team.

  30. Nick - Jul 20, 2010 at 12:11 PM

    Whoever did this deal on the Devils side should be hung from the rafters. Other than Fetisov and Federov, no Russian player has played with any level of NHL competitiveness, ever. Mogilny, gone. Bure, gone. This guy is going to be a fourth line wing in a few years, and will be laughing all the way to the bank.

  31. lumberjack - Jul 20, 2010 at 12:37 PM

    O.k. guys, if some of you sees nothing wrong with these sports people pulling 5,10,15,20,25 MILLION bucks a year and no ending in sight that it will stop …. one can only wonder.
    We have thousands of people out of work or earning peanuts. We have people fighting to get a 10 cent raise – yes 10 cents!!
    We have our President making I believe $400,000 a year
    and then, just to name one, A-ROD making $30 MILLION a year.
    Unless my figures are wrong, it would take the average joe blow 600 years to make that kind of money. IT MAKES ONE SICK JUST TO THINK ABOUT IT …. sad, very sad and we see nothing wrong… crazy man crazy.
    Stop the high prices per ticket for all sports so people can enjoy their teams and have money left for a couple of cold beer ~ love you – all you crazy sport fans.
    Sit back and watch the NY RANGERS win the CUP NEXT YEAR. Ha ha ha

  32. Paul - Jul 20, 2010 at 12:40 PM

    The team wouldn’t pay the player the salary unless they knew they were going to make the money back. Yes, there are parts of the country hurting, but in the tri-state area there are still plently of people that are going to pay to see these sports stars to play. I see no reason why players should say no to money if someone is going to give it to them. They have a talent that people enjoy watching and are willing to pay to watch. CAPITALISM at it’s best.

  33. richard - Jul 20, 2010 at 12:46 PM

    The Devils overpaid for him. The offer the Kings made, about $20 million less spread over 14 years, is what he’s actually worth (and with the young talent on the Kings, he would win a Stanley Cup) but you can’t fault someone for taking more money. Six years from now, if the Devils haven’t made it to the finals and with Kovi making 11.5 million a year as his skills start to decline, the Devils front office will be purged.

  34. hockey dad in Colorado - Jul 20, 2010 at 12:55 PM

    Whatever lady. Do you give all your extra income to charity, or to the education and medical care of stangers you don’t even know? I didn’t think so. You probably live in a one bedroom apartment right? It’s called freedom lady, maybe Kovalchuk wasn’t sitting in a bar during his youth or playing video games, but skating his ass off in a freezing ice arena, probably before 6am. All you idots whom have no clue on what it takes to actually make it to any professional sports, let alone be a star, should shut the hell up. Patrick Kane’s family spent over a quarter of a million dollars on lessons and camps, not including lodging, travel and time involved. Go volunteer to help with the mini-mites kids at your local ice rink, and just begin to see what a great sport, and people are the sport of ice hockey.

  35. Hello McFly!! - Jul 20, 2010 at 12:55 PM

    Listen.. all you idiots complaining about him making 6 mil a yr need to take a look at other sports. This still doesn’t compare to the 30 mil a yr people are getting in baseball and football and basketball. OK 102mil may be a big number, but there’s 39 OTHER players in the NHL that will have a higher cap hit than him next year anyway. If they can throw $150 mil into The Last Airbender, they can give 102 mil over the course of 17 years to someone people would actually go and watch. And all you haters, from raggedy old msg know you’d be gladly spending that money to watch ur broadway bums get skated all around by the Devils anyway. Everyone should shut up and go on a diet if you want to save money.

  36. JerryF - Jul 20, 2010 at 1:17 PM

    In the truest economic sense a person is always ‘worth’ what a willing buyer is ready to pay. But the people who say a hockey player (or football, baseball, basketball, soccer player) is not ‘worth’ some contract never say that some movie star isn’t ‘worth’ what he makes for a movie; and never says some business executive is not ‘worth’ what he makes.

  37. Joe - Jul 20, 2010 at 2:25 PM

    I agree but then again Hockey Players are paid the least amount out of any American professional sport and endure the roughest season of anyone; its not as long as baseball but you have to laugh at comparing the vigor of hockey and baseball together.

  38. brad - Jul 20, 2010 at 2:30 PM

    how can the devils even afford to pay him, i live 20 minutes from the arena, the place is never even half full and the devils havent paid their rent since 2007!!!!!! the reason the devils say they havent paid rent is because its to cold in the arena and the heat doesnt work right!!! Hey Mr. Vanderbeek you do realize hockey is played on a sheet of ice!!!!!!!

  39. F2B&G - Jul 20, 2010 at 3:46 PM

    They overpaid, but someone was going to. The Devils play a pretty defensive style, and he’ll be paid that kind of money to learn it and mostly adhere to it. Plus, not playing for a craphole organization like Atlanta might force him to realize that competitive, well-run NHL franchises have serious postseason expectations.
    I have a feeling that he’s going to work out better than Rangers fans would like to think, even though, as a neutral observer, I think the Devils have invested too much up front.

  40. Mark McKee - Jul 20, 2010 at 7:13 PM

    Get a grip people. Why do you always complain about the salaries of entertainers when in actuality they are they only ones who deserve what they make because WE decide if they get to remain employed. Once we the fans are done with them, they are done period. Keep your eye on the ball, and cry about those Wall Street jerks. Also, I think it’s nice in this day & age when a guy decides to play with one franchise for life, which used to be the norm back when America was great.

  41. Mark McKee - Jul 20, 2010 at 7:23 PM

    If I had a nickel for every time someone said a deal by Lou Lamoriello would cause the whole front office to be fired, (myself included), I could buy a team. I’ve learned to sit back and watch, and so has the NHL, which is why Lou’s in the Hall of Fame. I think it was a great deal.

  42. lumberjack - Jul 20, 2010 at 8:58 PM

    Back when America was great….. you got this right in those days you did not have to spend a half a paycheck to see a game. You did not have sports players making millions of dollars….no, those were the good old days where the owners did not have to raise the ticket prices every year just so they are able to pay the greed of players their millions and sock it to the fans. No, we have lost it and greed has taken a hold of America. Sad, very sad.
    Reduce the ticket prices and the owners have no choice but to reduce the salaries and cut the greed of the players. You die-hard fans pay almost anything the see the games and the owners know it. KEEP SPENDING YOUR HARD EARNED MONEY so Kovalchuk, A-ROD and company just love to puchase a few more homes and a couple more Mercedes-Benz.

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