Skip to content

Kovalchuk says “time will tell” if he stays in the KHL

Jan 8, 2013, 3:59 PM EDT

Ilya Kovalchuk Getty Images

Ilya Kovalchuk wants to know exactly what the NHL’s new CBA looks like before he makes up his mind about returning to North America to play for the New Jersey Devils. So until the agreement is ratified (expected to be Saturday), he’ll be staying in Russia with his KHL club, SKA St. Petersburg.

Oh, and staying in Russia beyond CBA ratification isn’t out of the question, he says. The 29-year-old tells Sport-Express that he’s “not in a hurry to get to America” and plans to play in Sunday’s KHL All-Star game if the league’s commissioner, Alexander Medvedev, allows it.

And if the NHL’s new CBA isn’t to his liking?

“Time will tell (if I stay in the KHL),” Kovalchuk said. “Nothing is out of the question.”

Kovalchuk has $88 million remaining on his contract with the Devils, so there’s plenty of incentive to return to North America; however, it’s likely he’ll lose some of his salary to escrow as the NHL transitions to a 50-50 split of league revenues between players and owners.

Also, according to Sport-Express, there may be Russian “oil and natural gas magnates” that are hoping to keep Kovalchuk, along with Red Wings star Pavel Datsyuk, in the KHL.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly says the KHL has indicated it will honor Kovalchuk’s contract with the Devils, as per an agreement between the two leagues.

Related: Could Ovechkin and/or Kovalchuk legally get out of their NHL contracts?

  1. jernster21 - Jan 8, 2013 at 4:03 PM

    What a clown – stay over there for all I care. The sad thing is how this dudes name even comes up in talks regarding being Captain. He couldn’t care less about that team or anyone on it, just himself.

    • ron05342 - Jan 8, 2013 at 4:10 PM

      “Clown” doesn’t even begin to explain his behavior. “Moron” fits better.

    • martysbetter - Jan 8, 2013 at 5:21 PM

      I don’t understand where this comes from – do you even watch the Devils?

      • lordfletcher - Jan 8, 2013 at 6:31 PM

        I find it funny that most of you could care less about what he wants and are acting selfishly because you want the best players playing in the NHL.

        Kovy signed a deal to play in the NHL but once the lockout happened, he has every right to leave. Don’t call him a clown or moron, you look like a child throwing a temper tantrum. He would make more money playing in Russia than he would in the states. The deal would be the same or close to ($$$) and then he wouldn’t get taxed. and again he would be playing at home, who wouldn’t want that. If the role was reversed would you stay in Russia if you could play back home for equal pay…..

        I feel for Devil fans here if they lose Parise and Kovalchuk in one season but in the end we all know Kovy will be back by mid week, say the 15th

      • kitshky - Jan 9, 2013 at 12:46 AM


        He signed a massive contract that knew would go beyond the current CBA, he got paid enormous amounts of money and shaped how the Devils planned both their current roster and their future roster.

        No … he does not have the right to stay in Russia because the CBA expired.

  2. ravenscaps48 - Jan 8, 2013 at 4:08 PM

    Stay then.

    • polegojim - Jan 8, 2013 at 6:15 PM

      Yes – stay there – exactly… let everyone else to the work… THEN you’ll scrutinize it?

      Good riddance and good-bye.

  3. njallday - Jan 8, 2013 at 4:10 PM

    As talented as he is, Kovy has no heart. I almost hope he does stay in Russia, though I’m sure he won’t. I think it would be worth the down year.

    • thecheeman - Jan 8, 2013 at 5:26 PM

      Seriously Kovy was double-shifting in the playoffs last year with a herniated disc. Go check out the Eastern Conference Finals Game 5 when he threw a check in the corner in the third that allowed Stephen Gionta to feed the puck to Ryan Carter streaking toward the net for the game winner. He played the PP, he penalty killed, and he kept the Devils afloat the first half of the season with an incredible streak of game winning shootout goals.

      You should not say this man has no heart. I hadn’t seen a Devil play with heart like that in the playoffs in quite some time.

    • hockeyflow33 - Jan 8, 2013 at 6:19 PM

      You don’t follow hockey huh?

  4. nach0mancandysandwich - Jan 8, 2013 at 4:11 PM


  5. thecheeman - Jan 8, 2013 at 4:11 PM

    I’m 99% convinced this is just bluster. They were locked out for over 100 days. He’s the captain of a team over there, and it’s not like he knew what day the lockout was going to end. It’s a lot easier said than done to just drop your life in Russia and all your teammates like a bad habit. The NHL singled him out to take a stand on salary term lengths, and now they’ve just cut away further at what he signed on to making through escrow. Is he supposed to love that?

    If he’s got friends and family and fans who love him in his native country are we shocked that he might feel pulled to play for them?

    We fans are hilarious. We complain about the owners screwing the players, but when a player is pissed off enough to consider telling Bettman to F Off we think he’s a clown? The lockout sucks for the fans but the owners aren’t clawing money back from us. Kovalchuk probably lost more money in this than nearly every other player in the league.

    /end rant

    • lordfletcher - Jan 8, 2013 at 6:35 PM

      couldn’t agree more… I like how the first couple posts that call him a moron and clown get thumbs up but once people calm down they realize Kovy is doing what’s best for him in the end and was the one singled out in all of this, they agree to your post. interesting.

      again, well said cheeman

    • caucasian1975 - Jan 8, 2013 at 9:45 PM

      Huge load of bs. If kovalchuk was so enamored with the khl and returning to Russia why did he sign such a long deal?

  6. steelers88 - Jan 8, 2013 at 4:26 PM

    The NHL players that are playing in the KHL should be forced to come back you can’t just do that.

  7. martysbetter - Jan 8, 2013 at 4:40 PM

    I don’t blame him at all, he signed a massive contract under the old CBA – thus he stands to have the most to lose should the new CBA redefine his salary.

    For all of you fans whining and crying foul over this, you haven’t learned anything from the lockout – THIS IS A BUSINESS FIRST AND FOREMOST.

    Quit being naîve, as a Devil’s fan I don’t see this as a slap in the face at all – nor do I see this as defining Kovy’s character, he played the entire playoffs (and tied for the lead in scoring) with a herniated disc in his back, he’s demonstrated his dedication to winning with the Devils franchise.

    This isn’t a Kovy vs The Devils problem, this is a Kovy vs The NHL problem – this is about an employee’s salary being redefined by his employer, if you take it as anything else then you are an idiot.

    Go Devils, with or without Kovy.

    • stakex - Jan 8, 2013 at 6:37 PM

      You are missing one HUGE fact…. when Kovy (or any NHL player) signed his contract, he knew damn well his salary could be cut in a new CBA. In fact, for a couple years now its been no secret that the NHL was probably going to get a higher % if HRR in the new CBA. So don’t act like he signed this deal fully expecting, and being told by the Devils, that his salary would never be cut… because he knew damn well it probably would be.

      Also, theres nothing in his contract that allows him to walk away from it should his salary be cut. Thus his salary being cut is NOT a violation of his contract and as an employee he has no choice but to honor it. CBA negotiations and as such are part of the business as you point out… walking away from a legal contract for no legal reason isn’t. I don’t know about you, but I consider someone willing to walk away from a legal contract, with no legal reason for doing so, to have serious character issues.

      Side Note: By your logic, teams should be able to walk away from contracts when a player doesn’t perform. After all, if I sign you to a deal expecting a certain level of performance (performance has a dollar value in this world) and you don’t deliever… I’m not getting the full value of that contract, so why should I pay you? In your world I should be able to cancel the contract and not pay you a dime. The world however, does not work like that.

      • martysbetter - Jan 8, 2013 at 6:55 PM

        People don’t predicate legal agreements based on vague assumptions like “the NHL was probably going to get a higher % if HRR in the new CBA”.

        Think back…waaaaaaay back to when Kovy signed his deal in New Jersey, was anyone talking about HRR and the new CBA during that year while the league was posting record profit?

        It wasn’t even a story, if you had the foresight in 2010 to predict CBA & HRR issues, you should have alerted the rest of us – because you act like all of these issues were foregone conclusions years before they even came into public view.

        Side Note: Yes the world does work like that, and the league has demonstrated that by allowing 2 contractual buyouts for each team.

      • mpg44 - Jan 8, 2013 at 8:36 PM

        Actually …. His contract he signed was WAS and still IS subject to the current rules of the CBA . If this is really a surprise to kovy , then Shame on his agent for not properly explaining it especially since the CBA was set to expire within the timeframe of his contract.

        Also , the whole point of being in a union is to unite with your fellow tradesman and better the WHOLE organization. This does not mean only when the outcome suits YOUR liking . This logic completely destroys all that a unions stands for. If the outcome was to mean SO much to him in particular, ( unfortunatly I need to point out Sid “crybaby ” Crosby’s involment in the negotiations ) , then HE should have been here fighting for what he thought was fair and not playing in another league. But by sitting back and allowing others to negotiate on your behalf , then you must go on whatever the deal is , and that it was the best deal possible . Since it was too much out of your day to be involved, then don’t cry about how much YOU had at stake .

      • thecheeman - Jan 9, 2013 at 8:43 AM

        mpg44 – I have to strongly disagree here with your notion of what unions are for. They are to benefit the members of the union, and while the union might pay lipservice to what’s best for the whole organization, that is clearly secondary.

        The gentleman’s agreement between the KHL and NHL is clearly a deflationary factor on salaries. If the NHL was in a position where owners had to pay a higher price for top talent to outbid the KHL that would be better for overall player salary levels. The KHL gets not much out of that deal except the promise that the NHL will send players to the Olympics in Russia.

        This move is probably just a power play by the KHL using the main weapon in their arsenal (opening up the checkbooks to lure away talent at any time, causing NHL chaos) to get what they need (NHL talent in Sochi). Once the Sochi Olympics are over, you might see the gloves really come off the KHL as they will probably have nothing left to lose by maintaining their agreement with the NHL.

        If I was Donald Fehr, I would probably be very excited about that prospect of increased demand for player services, meaning increased salaries. Even within the context of the CBA it might lead to more spending up to the cap across more franchises.

      • mpg44 - Jan 9, 2013 at 9:17 AM

        I respect your opinion . Perhaps I did not put it the best way. I guess simply put what I don’t like about that is you can’t have it both ways . Do be in the union for only your self interest. The players still need to vote on the CBA ratification and he could certainly vote it down . However , if it passes with the majority vote , he should stand by his union brothers and cry about it.

      • mpg44 - Jan 9, 2013 at 9:23 AM

        I was also not speaking of the issues with the NHL/khl . I was speaking of his issue with his having to read the CBA and then he will make a decision on what’s best for “him” . That is not how unions work , it should be that he can read it , not agree with it or agree with it . But must stand with whatever the majority vote is about the CBA. He could hate it , be the biggest loser money wise , but it the majority votes it through then as a union member he should do what’s best for the union as a whole and not an individual . All I’m sayi g is he making it sound as though if “he ” doesn’t approve of the CBA , regardless of what the overall union vote is , he will do his own thing . That is not right towards the union.

  8. shortsxit34 - Jan 8, 2013 at 4:51 PM

    the Herman

    Absolutely agree. If Kovy is going to lose a lot of money here, while he could be making more in Russia, his home, in front of his friends, family and fans, I don’t know what’s so shocking about him at least contemplating the idea.

    Fans are so spoiled and feel a sense of entitlement. Kovy (and all players) are going to do what’s best for themselves and their families–not us.

  9. 950003cups - Jan 8, 2013 at 4:52 PM

    Don’t listen to anything you hear coming out of russia. They say anything they want. They twist stuff all the time. Devils fans went through all this crap when Kovalchuk was a free agent. The KHL had all kinds of headlines that they were gonna pay him more money than the NHL can afford to pay him.

    #1 He’s coming back.
    #2 I have no doubts that he wants to come back.
    #3 He has to come back as per NHL/KHL agreement.
    #4 He has a milti-milion dollar house he’s building here in NJ that he’s not gonna abandon
    #5 His kids are enrolled in school here
    #6 He just came back from a SC Final series

  10. hawkeyplayer - Jan 8, 2013 at 5:23 PM

    I’m with you all on the who cares.

    if he’s happy there,.then stay!

    he’d be a fool to return if he doesn’t like the.NHL.

  11. notoriouswarsaw - Jan 8, 2013 at 5:27 PM

    maybe once he’s done reading it, him and bryzzy can have a scholarly discussion on its ramifications to the universe.

  12. semin28 - Jan 8, 2013 at 5:48 PM

    Eff that clown

  13. deadrabbit79 - Jan 8, 2013 at 6:00 PM

    Let him and all of them stay over there. I said it on another thread….enjoy those takeoffs and landings!

  14. phillyphanatic77 - Jan 8, 2013 at 6:28 PM

    This would be terrible for the Devils and great for the rest of the Atlantic division. It would definitely be a challenge to contend without both Parise and Kovalchuk. Elias, Henrique, and Zajac can only score so many goals. But I can’t see Kovalchuk leaving that much money, he’ll be back.

  15. hy3rid28 - Jan 8, 2013 at 7:11 PM

    yeah right… we all know your coming back ilya stop with the bs

  16. sampulls - Jan 8, 2013 at 7:18 PM

    A player not honouring their contract? Heaven forbid.

  17. barkar942 - Jan 8, 2013 at 7:55 PM

    One of the two biggest KHL Scabs. Let him stay if he wants to. It is a free world!

  18. sportsfan69 - Jan 8, 2013 at 7:55 PM

    The NJ Devils should sue llya Kovalchuk for a breach of contract. Why should Mr. Kovalchuk be allowed to walk away from his contract? If the Devils wanted to cut llya Kovalchuk, they couldn’t do it without buying him out of his entire guaranteed contract. It’s a two way street. You can’t have it both ways, It’s a commitment, honor it or buy out to the remaining contract to the NJ Devils with severe financial penalties. Or retire from the game of hockey until the original contract expires.

  19. bramptondon - Jan 8, 2013 at 8:03 PM

    It wasn’t that long ago that European and Iron Curtain players were begging to get into the NHL. It gave them financial rewards and freedom from oppression that they could only dream of. Now they are disparaging the NHL and threatening not to honour their contracts. Here is what I say to them- You ungrateful wretches stay in your rat hole countries and don’t come back. I’m sure our North American boys would appreciate it.

  20. rockthered1286 - Jan 8, 2013 at 8:11 PM

    Taking a different angle on this- wouldn’t this be a HUGE black mark on Bettman? I know it takes two to tango but I still believe he made this lockout much worse than it had to be. Imagine if the result of this excruciating lockout is not only substantially lower revenue in 2013, but also the loss of several star NHL talents that never would have happened had a resolution come quicker?

    That being said- Kovy will be back.

  21. bramptondon - Jan 8, 2013 at 8:43 PM

    The KHL will honour the NHL contract because Russia wants the NHL in the Olympics they are hosting. That is the only reason.

    • jimw81 - Jan 8, 2013 at 10:19 PM

      i agree, IIHF will step in and tell KHL to stop it for now. IIHF has to much to lose now with Olympics around the corner.

  22. bramptondon - Jan 8, 2013 at 10:24 PM

    He signed that long contract because at that time the Devils had to do it that way because of the cap. Still the league thought it was in violation and penalized the team which ended up in my opinion costing them a playoff spot. They paid way too much for him. By him talking of staying in the KHL only proves my point he has no concern for Devils and no respect for the NHL which ironically gave him the opportunity to improve his lot in the first place.

  23. valoisvipers - Jan 9, 2013 at 10:35 AM

    Stay over there then and since you played for the Devils no one will notice you are not there.

  24. sheapuck - Jan 9, 2013 at 10:44 AM

    What would happen if he announced his retirement from the NHL and then played in the KHL?

  25. flyerguy73 - Jan 9, 2013 at 11:13 AM

    See ya punk. Stay over there, and I hope you get your butt handed to ya.

Top 10 NHL Player Searches
  1. P. Kessel (1795)
  2. P. Kane (1326)
  3. P. Datsyuk (1175)
  4. S. Matthias (1133)
  5. M. Giordano (1034)