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Devils players didn’t see Kovalchuk retirement coming

Jul 12, 2013, 8:05 AM EDT

Martin Brodeur, Ilya Kovalchuk AP

If you were blindsided by Ilya Kovalchuk‘s decision to announce his retirement for the purposes of heading to the KHL, you aren’t alone.

We previously reported that Zach Parise was “shocked” when he found out about the news and apparently that was the word of the day for the Devils.

“It’s definitely a little bit of a shocker,” Travis Zajac told the Bergen Record. “I didn’t really see that coming.”

Zajac was so surprised when he first heard the news that he reached out to Record writer Tom Gulitti to see if the reports were true. Martin Brodeur also used the word “shocker” to describe his reaction.

“I was like, ‘What? I’m the one who should be having that news. Not him,’” Brodeur, 41, added.

Devils captain Bryce Salvador also used the word of the day, but added that “you’ve got to respect” his desire to play at home.

Brodeur took things a bit further and suggested that the lockout might have played an important role in Kovalchuk’s decision.

“When you go through what he went through with his contract and the controversy and everything and to finally settle on a number and you turn around and that number is change dramatically because of the new CBA, that might have ticked him off a lot,” Brodeur said. “And for him, if there wasn’t a lockout, he would have never tasted the KHL.”

Brodeur added that as a player, he can understand Kovalchuk’s decision, but as a man that’s invested decades into the New Jersey Devils, he’s disappointed.

“He committed himself for a long time and when you turn around a few years after and you decide to just leave everything, it’s not like we’re getting anything for him,” Brodeur said. “If anything, it’s costing us money on the cap ($250,000 per season for 12 years as the cap recapture penalty for retiring before the end of the contract).”

One other sentiment that multiple Devils shared: Replacing Kovalchuk isn’t simple. But they’re going to try and win anyways.

  1. Mike Williams - Jul 12, 2013 at 8:35 AM

    I am a huge Devil fan and I am disgusted by what Kovalchuk did. When I woke up this morning I thought I had a nightmare. He has royally screwed us for the foreseeable future. The Jeremy Roenick tweets yesterday were spot on, “Kovalchuk is as selfish as they come!!” (He then went on a little rant and I highly suggest you go take a look at some of the tweets) I have no idea what the Devils are going to do now. Possibly go after Damien Brunner, inquire about Vanek, or not do anything. I doubt Lou will do the last suggestion. The two requests I have is that they do not sign Jagr and they do not rush Boucher. Next season may be rough but I’ll be at the games cheering for them. Lets Go Devils!!

  2. pone27 - Jul 12, 2013 at 8:55 AM

    As a Hawks fan (I am sure most of the regs on here know this by now, sorry) but more a true, dedicated hockey fan, this really ticks me off.

    I mean, its clear Kovy wanted out. He made it pretty obvious during the lockout, and the Devs basically gave him an offer I don’t think many hockey players would turn down.

    But if you really are on the fence on signing a binding, legal agreement, you either A) sign it and fulfill the agreement, or B) you decline it and either counter, or move along.

    We can sit here and talk about all the positives and negatives of the decision Kovy made, but at the end of the day, its financially, and morally an incorrect move.

    The Devils are going to suffer big time from this. The only positive outlook is now they will have cap room to make trades/sign players, but in reality, they are in for a rough season(s). The Devils definitely should go after Brunner, his upside is huge and has one heck of a shot.

    • 2jivecrew - Jul 12, 2013 at 9:15 AM

      Let’s not let the NHL ownership off the hook. They signed “legal, binding” agreements with many players over the last few years and never had any intention on paying in full. They knew they would lock out the players and try and move the goalposts to renege on those deals. How “moral” is that?

      I feel bad for devs fans, but I LOVE the precedent this creates for NHL owners. And there’s nothing they can do about it until the brand new CBA expires. It’s exactly what they deserve.

      • 19to77 - Jul 12, 2013 at 11:19 AM

        Everyone’s slamming Kovalchuk on walking out on his contract (and it’s not like he hasn’t earned the criticism), but not even a year has passed since the owners forced a lockout over refusing to pay the players what they’d agreed upon in ALL the contracts. And the owners got a bigger share, and the players had to take a smaller one in order to get to play again this year at all. This is why the lockout was such a pointless endeavour. Few players trust the owners anymore, and why should they?

  3. jacketsfan7 - Jul 12, 2013 at 8:59 AM

    I agree , but with Lou , he’ll find a way to help the team make the playoffs like always , I think Zubrus and Zajac need to step up now

  4. 950003cups - Jul 12, 2013 at 9:06 AM

    I can’t believe this!!!

    • cofran2004 - Jul 12, 2013 at 12:05 PM



      rangers and flyers fans everywhere.

      • madsometimes - Jul 12, 2013 at 12:46 PM

        Aaaaaaand you still haven’t won anything since 1994 and 1975 respectively.


        Devils fans everywhere

      • cofran2004 - Jul 12, 2013 at 1:32 PM

        in the past my friend…. in this moment, your screwed!

        so i reiterate….


      • cofran2004 - Jul 12, 2013 at 1:33 PM


  5. micklethepickle - Jul 12, 2013 at 9:11 AM

    I thought the same thing as Brodeur (regarding the lockout – which makes me worry about Ovi pulling the same stunt), and it makes me respect Kovalchuk more for this sudden move. I’m not blaming Devils fans for being upset; their loyalty is to the sweater, not the players wearing them. But the lockout was a disgrace, and if Kovy’s reasons for leaving ARE because of it, then I’m glad that the owners face some repercussions for being greedy pieces of ****!

    • idonthavethebloodyoucrave - Jul 12, 2013 at 9:42 AM

      Wait a second, Let me get this straight …

      It’s okay that the owners get to pay all the bills, lease/buy all the property/equipment, handle all the marketing/travel expenses, take all the financial risk, etc.

      But if they think it’s a little unfair that they have to then give almost 60% of their revenues from their business to their employees … they’re being selfish?

      Wow … just … wow.

      • micklethepickle - Jul 12, 2013 at 9:52 AM

        Who plays the game? Who do fans show up to watch? Who risks their health, livelihood, and future bodily comfort every time they step on the ice? Oh, but I guess that slightly less than HALF of 8 billion $$ isn’t enough for the old white men that don’t play hockey.

        I’m guessing that you’re the type that thinks the big banks and Wall Street were completely blameless for the economic collapse also.

      • idonthavethebloodyoucrave - Jul 12, 2013 at 10:28 AM

        They’re EMPLOYEES. Get that straight. No one forces them to risk their health, livelihood or future bodily comfort (kinda redundant).


        I’m not a republican or a liberal. I’m just not stupid enough to forgo common sense and logic for any affiliation.

        The ridiculous feelings of entitlements and demands by the NHL Players Union cost us half the 2012-2013 season the same way the Owners unwillingness to negotiate revenue sharing and a luxury tax in exchange for finally having a real salary cap cost us the 2004-2005 season.

        It’s no wonder why people really hate clueless self entitlement/redistribution liberals as much as they hate delusional zealot republicans.

      • hockeydon10 - Jul 12, 2013 at 10:32 AM

        The players are not the employees, they’re the product.

      • hockeydon10 - Jul 12, 2013 at 10:35 AM

        In fact, we should go one further than just saying they’re not employees.

        They’re independent contractors. They don’t fulfill the contract, they don’t get paid. Simple.

      • 19to77 - Jul 12, 2013 at 11:34 AM

        The players signed what they were always told were legally binding contracts for X amount of money, in exchange for providing their skills in a public setting to entertain the fans and make money for everyone. And then the owners came to them and said, “We’re adjusting these contracts. We want a bigger cut.” What’s the worth of their signatures on the contracts, then? What happened to “legally binding?” If the owners treated their word on their contracts as just a lie of convenience, then the players had every right to protest.

        The owners walked away from the contracts they signed and got their way in the end anyway. They took a bigger cut, the players lost money that was contractually guaranteed to them, and now some of them feel entitled to say “Hey, f*ck it, I guess my word’s worth as much as yours now, right?” And if your employer did that to you, the last thing you’d be doing is bleating about how as an employee, you shouldn’t feel “entitled” to the money he just took away. You’d be livid about being screwed.

    • theschwartzsays - Jul 12, 2013 at 5:27 PM

      Hahahahahaha you stupid liberal. Man I have read all of your comments an you truly are retarded. You think this hurts the NHL or the owners? Lol no it doesn’t. The NHL is paid for and operated by the owners. Woul there be an NHL without them? Nope. Would kovy or Ovie and any of these players have the capital to start a league like the NHL? No. They need billionaire owners to create the league so they can PAY them. Try are playin a game and the owners have made a stage for them to play on and therefore get paid. This doesn’t hurt the owners. Just the fans. There will always be new stars. Kovy leaving won’t hurt ratings. Won’t hurt the owners bank accounts. It does nothing. Just hurts the fan. I could careless what he does. If that’s what’s best for him then good for him. But don’t act like this is some big blow to the owners. Liberals all think the same. The players deserve the majority? For what? Playing a game? They are lucky to get pay what they do. They work hard and deserve it. But it’s a business and is created by business people so the players are ABLE to make big money playing it. You’re an idiot. The NHL has tons of young players to market. Kovy is just one of many Russians to bail. Hurts nobody but the devils. Stupid liberal

      • theschwartzsays - Jul 12, 2013 at 5:29 PM

        The comment above is @ mickle

      • micklethepickle - Jul 13, 2013 at 7:36 PM

        Tell you what, you can go watch a bunch of middle-aged, out of shape billionaires try and play hockey, and I’ll tune into one of the several dozen other pro leagues, and we’ll compare notes on which one of us has the more enjoyable viewing experience. Only in America do idiots like you support the ruling class no matter the issue at hand.

        That being said, glad you’ve been reading all my comments – I pride myself on educating the ignorant.

  6. robertsds - Jul 12, 2013 at 9:22 AM

    Agree with 2jive,
    Wecant forget that the owners (team execs) backout, cut, or sign players to unrealistic contacts all the time. No one ever questions their morals. We cant act like sports contracts are pacts written in blood.
    Asa Devils fan Im hurt by the move but as a man I can respect the man for wanting to play closer to his family.
    Nhl needs to take a hard stance with the khl, this is a problem brewing…

  7. kaptaanamerica - Jul 12, 2013 at 9:35 AM

    Kovy did what was best for him, but the devils willingly let him out of the deal.a player can’t walk away like that with out the team agreeing.also, uncle Lou has a plan already.we’ll just watch his moves in the last few weeks.

  8. pone27 - Jul 12, 2013 at 9:49 AM

    Let’s not bring owners into this, for at the end of the day a contract is a contract, and a LEGAL agreement is a legal agreement. Retiring is a scapegoat way of bailing out of your contract without being legally held responsible to do so.

    Take the CBA and all that BS out of the equation for the owners and players agreed on it.

    Put it this way: If Kovy doesn’t play in the KHL, then I am fine. If Kovy does, well then, how does this make Kovy a good person?

    Don’t forget, this also affects the fans (especially season ticket holders) tremendously!

    • micklethepickle - Jul 12, 2013 at 10:04 AM

      Can’t ignore that if the lockout doesn’t happen, in all likelihood Kovy doesn’t leave. Owners have a role in this story.

    • hockeydon10 - Jul 12, 2013 at 10:58 AM

      Just FYI, these contracts all have sections dealing with player retirement from the NHL. Did you really think there was nothing in there about players retiring before their contract is up?

      Very telling of your knowledge of how these things work if that’s the case.

  9. malvaren18 - Jul 12, 2013 at 10:23 AM

    Devils are done, they only have Brodeur left and he is getting old.

    • nj666 - Jul 12, 2013 at 12:32 PM

      wow you’re dumb.

  10. 950003cups - Jul 12, 2013 at 10:32 AM

    We have nothing left. Kovy pulling this crap leaves us with UGOTZ!!!

  11. obnoxiousDCfan - Jul 12, 2013 at 10:50 AM

    As a Caps fan, I always respected Kovy as a player, especially when he was pushing through the mud in Atlanta, but this is just selfish. I don’t care about the owners or the CBA. If you sign a contract, you honor it, plain and simple. As sad as it is to say, if they didn’t make a deep run in the next couple of seasons, I could see Ovi doing the same thing.

    • micklethepickle - Jul 12, 2013 at 10:56 AM

      Just like the owners honored all the contracts they just bought out a few weeks ago? Cuts both ways. And yes, I too am terrified that Ovechkin may decide to drop out of a rebuilding project and head overseas. Maybe if the NHL hadn’t locked out their players twice in one decade, they’d show a little more loyalty. Like I said above, as fans we have every right to be upset, but in the end the players choose what is best for them and their families. Can’t fault them for that.

  12. hockeydon10 - Jul 12, 2013 at 10:54 AM

    If one were to look at this without emotion, this may work out best for the Devils and their fans in the long run, after a brief period of pain. Consider:

    That contract was going to be an albatross in coming years. Being a 50 goal scorer is a young man’s game. There is no way he would have lived up to his salary in the next few years ($10-11M), let alone his cap hit. The wear and tear really was taking its toll on him and on his production. By the time his salary got down below his cap hit, his production would have been much too low to be acceptable for $6.66M per year. Then, if he retires early anyway, the Devils are screwed by this cap retention phrase in the new CBA.

    Voiding this contract does a few important things for the Devils. Their finances look much better allowing the sale of the team to go through much easier. Instead of only $4M in cap space, they now have $10.4M, giving them some flexibility moving forward.

    The Devils’ GM knew about this ahead of time. Lou said so. He’s very secretive and makes that work for the organization. The only stumble that could be laid at Lou’s feet is not pressuring Kovy to make a decision prior to free agency.

    It’s been reported that the Kovy signing was all about the owner pressuring Lou to sign him. Perhaps now he’ll simply trust Lou to run the team rather than sticking his nose in where he hasn’t the expertise. That can only be good for the Devils and their fans in the long run.

    I can’t really be too upset that he’s retiring. Every player has the right to retire from the NHL whenever they want. It’s written right there in the contract both the player and the GM signed. And what’s the alternative? Force a guy to play and pay him to be a disgruntled member of the team?

  13. flyerfan2083 - Jul 12, 2013 at 12:28 PM

    Bad situation all around. Sad really, yet I think there’s a lot more to this story, mainly that the Devils aren’t so innocent in the whole situation due to their massive financial troubles through poor ownership/management. It seems as though they are quite alright with Kovy’s decision to retire and from various sources have known for some time now that Kovy leaving was a very real possibility. In knowing this, it would seem that the organization should have had a great deal of time to formulate a back up plan, if indeed Kovy followed through with his desire to leave.

    As it stands now, Kovy looks like the bad guy for numerous reasons. A few being waiting until after the draft to announce this news, along with doing so after most big ticket free agents have already signed with other clubs. It seems he really put the Devils organization in a deep hole by waiting until now to do so, but perhaps the Devils, with all their financial woes, just simply can’t afford to pay/don’t want to pay anyone else. I mean, there’s reports that they missed/were late on their debt payments, along with late payments to players as well, so it’s certainly not out of the question.

    Now, the heat is off the Devil’s financial issues for a while, and suddenly they’re looking like the victim in the situation. That’s why they’re not so upset with his choice to leave. Instead of paying Kovy millions, with money they may or may not have for years to come, they only have to make payments of $250k a season for the same period of time. A pretty big plus for a cash starved franchise. They also don’t look so bad missing out on free agency, as Kovy “screwed” them.

    With Kovy on the roster, they were a lot closer to the cap and certainly a little more hand-cuffed in their ability to spend money, but the fact remains that they knew all along that he was contemplating leaving and appears they had been discussing it with him. Still, they let Clarkson walk knowing this? Or, perhaps, they knew they couldn’t/didn’t want to pay him regardless of Kovy leaving? Another possibility the Devils had In knowing that Kovy wanted to leave, was to simply buy him out and open up that space to use for free agency. Numerous teams did this, a few spending quite large amounts doing so. Yet, the Devils couldn’t? I certainly understand not doing so, as again, being a cash strapped team they likely couldn’t afford to, but it remained an option knowing he wanted out.

    what will be quite telling, is just what the Devils do now with the free cap space. It is pretty much impossible to replace Kovalchuk, but there’s definitely moves to be made out there for the Devils. If they don’t make any moves, whether it be via signing or trade, I think it goes a long way in showing just how dire their financial situation really is, and how badly they need new ownership. Vanderbeek has run the Devils into the ground, and Lou has been making some rather poor decisions lately. Perhaps it’s time to find new management too

    • nj666 - Jul 12, 2013 at 12:34 PM

      another flyers fan with no clue on what he’s talking about. You should worry about Holmgrens horrible decisions.

      • PhillySN - Jul 12, 2013 at 1:11 PM

        I apologize on behalf of the flyers. A portion of our fan base is retarded. It also happens to be the group that feels the need to voice their opinions frequently about things they have absolutely no knowledge on. If you want proof just check out the comment section of the flyers facebook page. Sorry to hear about kovy. Lou always has a plan and is going to show why he is the best gm around

  14. flyerfan2083 - Jul 12, 2013 at 12:59 PM


    What’s dumb about it? You truly don’t find it odd how the Devils are quite complacent with Kovalchuk’s choice? What’s your reasoning for the Devils knowing that this was a very real possibility since January and just sitting on their hands? Surely you can’t dispute the fact that the Devils are in a terrible financial situation. The NHL issued memos on their “cash flow issues” lol. Also, they’ve made an awful lot of questionable moves. Their choice to not forfeit the 29th overall pick and now lose what will likely be a top pick? Re-signing Elias until he’s nearly 40? Losing Parise? Letting Clarkson walk? Having literally no prospects in the pipeline?And again, Knowing kovalchuk, your best player, is really debating leaving from atleast Jan on and doing nothing?

    With Holmgren, he certainly has made some decisions I didn’t like, but unlike the Devils, the Flyers have deep pockets and more times than not own up to and fix the mistakes made. Most recent example being buying out Bryzgalov. Coincidentally another Russian who made it clear he wanted out.

    • mj2sexay - Jul 12, 2013 at 2:58 PM

      What’s dumb about it is you have no idea what you’re talking about. Why would the Devils buy out a player when the alternative is letting him retire and voiding all that money? Do you get the concept of a buy out?

  15. blackhawks2010 - Jul 12, 2013 at 6:47 PM

    Kovalchuk’s production of 11 goals in 2013 will be tough to replace…. Overpaid, Overrated. Go to KHL where you can matter.

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