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Kovalev: Panthers pushed me to retirement

Mar 25, 2013, 10:28 AM EST

Cody Hodgson #19 of the Buffalo Sabres gets off a shot against Alex Kovalev #27 of the Florida Panthers at First Niagara Center on February 3, 2013 in Buffalo, New York. Florida won 4-3.
(February 2, 2013 - Source: Rick Stewart/Getty Images North America) Getty Images

Alex Kovalev used to be an elite player and he put together an NHL career that lasted for 1,316 games. He sought to extend his career with the Florida Panthers this season, but he only ended up playing in 14 contests with them.

Panthers GM Dale Tallon called it a “mutual agreement that we wanted to go in a different direction, that’s all.”

Not so, according to Kovalev, who finally made his retirement official last week after going a month without playing.

“I didn’t have a choice. That’s what has kind of been the frustrating part,” said Kovalev in a Montreal Gazette report. “Started the season good and everything was going well and, all of a sudden, they started pushing me away.

“And I just never understood the idea and what exactly happened. They never really explained to me — the things they’ve been telling me, just didn’t really make sense.

“You know what, what can I do? They’ve done their part. They gave me a chance to go back to the NHL. It’s just I feel bad I have to kind of decide to retire on somebody else’s terms, not mine.”

Everything went south for the Russian-born forward when he was called by the Panthers on Feb. 24, his 40th birthday, to be informed that they would no longer use him.

“They just said something about timing was bad and I’m not fitting in the first two lines and out of respect to me they can’t put me on the third, fourth line … which doesn’t really make sense,” he said.

Kovalev isn’t done playing hockey. He’ll go to Europe and look for a new job.

“I’ll just probably go to Switzerland,” Kovalev said, who isn’t too keen on returning to the KHL after his 2011-12 stint with the Moscow Oblast Atlant.

If this is truly the end of his NHL career though, he retires with 430 goals, 1,029 points, his name on the Stanley Cup, and three All-Star game selections. Still, Kovalev has some regrets.

“At this point, you can say I made a bad decision going to Ottawa instead of staying in Montreal (after the 2008-09 season),” he said. “Maybe I would still be playing here.”

Leaving Montreal marked the beginning of the end of his career as his production sharply declined in the years following his departure.

He participated in a Canadiens alumni game yesterday.

  1. govtminion - Mar 25, 2013 at 10:41 AM

    Sooooo… ask for a trade? Something’s weird here.

  2. mclovinhockey - Mar 25, 2013 at 10:54 AM

    He was on the trade market for a while. How he could not find someone who would give up a late pick to add depth is beyond me.

    The panthers are seeming to have more and more big problems with not being able to pick up picks and prospects for players who may/ will not be a panther next year.

  3. budzo83 - Mar 25, 2013 at 11:07 AM

    I’m guessing most teams would be reluctant to give anything up for him because they assumed he would end up on waivers… Also, (this is coming from a Kovalev fan) there’s still the “enigmatic Russian” label that GMs have to wrestle with. Although AK’s skill is undeniable and he showed moments of pure hustle and heart throughout his career, he showed just as many moments of minimal effort/motivation. If you’re a contender looking to add depth, you don’t want the latter ruining your team’s chemistry; There’s plenty of less skilled but harder working players available.

  4. valoisvipers - Mar 25, 2013 at 11:10 AM

    The guy is washed up, it was time, yet once again for Kovy to ride off in the sunset. A SNL Bye Bye.

  5. stakex - Mar 25, 2013 at 1:14 PM

    If theres one thing I’ve learned, its when something like this happens and one side says the words “mutual agreement”…. its BS.

  6. kaptaanamerica - Mar 25, 2013 at 1:16 PM

    This guy screwed himself by mailing it in one too many times.

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