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Former NHL star Kovalchuk ‘really enjoying’ life in KHL, Russia

Jan 13, 2014, 10:03 PM EDT

Russia v USA - 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Quarterfinals Getty Images

It was one of the stunning developments in the National Hockey League this summer, but it appears Ilya Kovalchuk’s decision to go back to Russia is one he’s happy with.

Kovalchuk, who, according to, was about to enter the fourth year of a 15-year contract worth $100 million with the New Jersey Devils, announced his retirement from the NHL on July 11. He scored 417 goals and 399 assists in 816 games during his time in the league.

Just four days after shocking the hockey world with his decision to leave for Russia, his home country, Kovalchuk signed with SKA Saint Petersburg of the Kontinental Hockey League.

As per, Kovalchuk has 14 goals and 36 points in 38 games with SKA Saint Petersburg this season.

“I’m really enjoying everything here,” Kovalchuk recently told the Associated Press. “It’s a great league. The game is different, but we are getting there. There are good players here for sure.”

“I talked to Lou (Lamoriello) for sure and it wasn’t just one day … I appreciate the way he handled the situation and I’m excited it worked out for both sides.”

Kovalchuk’s next challenge will be with the Russian men’s Olympic ice hockey team, which looks to rebound for a dismal quarter-final loss to Canada, the eventual gold-medal winners in Vancouver four years ago.

  1. pmonte3122 - Jan 13, 2014 at 10:27 PM

    Good stay there

    • badgerhockey77 - Jan 14, 2014 at 1:09 AM

      Thinking the same thing. Take Grigorenko, Yakupov and whole bunch more Russians with you. See’ya!

  2. strictlythedanks - Jan 13, 2014 at 10:28 PM

    Likely story

  3. killerpgh - Jan 13, 2014 at 10:48 PM

    I figured he would have better stats than 36 points in 38 games. He was a point per game player with 816 point in 816 NHL games and is in a less skilled league now. Malkin played in 37 games in the KHL last year and put up 65 pts.

    • khlbloggen - Jan 14, 2014 at 8:40 AM

      He has struggled with a back injury, which he got in the Stanley Cup playoffs

      • 950003cups - Jan 14, 2014 at 10:22 AM

        I would like to believe there is truth to that. But he said his back was fine later in the offseason. So he’s not having issues from that. In fact he was in the KHL during the lockout and he was fine. One of the best hockey players I’ve ever watched live. Too bad he left. I don’t think his contract was ever considered “albatross” by anyone. Teams feared him, and opposing fans loathed him. At any given minute, he had the ability to change a game. He carried the team on his back many times and succeeded.

        You’ll wanna talk “albatross” let’s talk about Parise. He already choked in the playoffs, as we all said he was known for. He’s a good player up until April. Then he disappears.

  4. valoisvipers - Jan 13, 2014 at 10:48 PM

    On the top ten list of things you when Putin holds a gun to your head.

  5. lordfletcher - Jan 13, 2014 at 11:03 PM

    “I talked to Lou (Lamoriello) for sure and it wasn’t just one day … I appreciate the way he handled the situation and I’m excited it worked out for both sides.”

    as a Wild fan, I don’t see how this worked out for both sides. I think NJ could really use your services. If the NHL gives back the Devils their draft pick that was lost, then it worked out for both sides… till then, I dunno.

    • barkar942 - Jan 13, 2014 at 11:27 PM

      It worked out for both sides, and it isn’t about the on ice product.
      The Devils were heading down the road to financial ruin with the $100,000,000 man contract on board, and because of that contract, they were completely unsaleable.
      Their only solution was to dump Kovy’s anchor contract, and the only way they could do that was Kovy had to “retire” to return home to his motherland.
      So, Kovy goes home to Russia and signs for big tax-free bucks in the KHL and doesn’t have to play boring trap hockey any more. Works for Kovy. The Devils are then able to get a new buyer so they can continue to play boring trap hockey and Lou still has his job. Works for the Devils and Lou.
      So now you can all understand the real meaning of Kovy’s statement of “I’m excited it worked out for both sides.”

      • lordfletcher - Jan 13, 2014 at 11:51 PM

        as if none of us simpletons understood the contract situation with Kovy and the Devils financial issues.

        I still can’t comprehend how him ditching the Devils works out for the Devils / “both sides” as he put in his quote. Are you telling me it worked out for both sides because he willing left to help Lou and ownership????? Please

        I think NJ could have traded him to several teams looking for an elite goal scorer and had assets returned.

      • barkar942 - Jan 14, 2014 at 12:45 AM

        lordfletcher- I’m not saying anyone is a simpleton. It is strictly about economics. The Devils were minutes away from the NHL taking over the Devils, which is the last thing they wanted after just unloading Phoenix. No one would buy them, and Kovy’s contract was the huge albatross that kept all suitors away.
        Trading away a contract like that is practically impossible unless you are taking one back in return, which the Devils were unable to do. ( Remember for a year we heard that Luongo was to be traded any minute along with his albatross contract- what happened there? No suitors for one of the elite goalies in the league).
        I personally the whole deal came straight from NHL headquarters across the river in NY as the fastest way to eliminate the Devils ensuing bankruptcy and the “buyers” were already ready as soon as the Kovy debt was gone.

      • 950003cups - Jan 14, 2014 at 10:26 AM

        Kovalchuk put butts in seats. Since he left attendance has dropped. Stars sell tickets. As soon as he left, it showed. Since he’s been here TV ratings climbed. As soon as he left they tumbled. These days, $100,000,000 for a player that caliber is cheap. If Suter and Paraieneach got that, what would another Kovalchuk cost?

  6. ducksk - Jan 13, 2014 at 11:20 PM

    Never ever trust a ruskie. Gen G.S. Patton

  7. radjager - Jan 13, 2014 at 11:22 PM

    Honestly the new 17 is great and now our leading scorer (Micheal Ryder) and with Jagr’s performance has been awesome so I don’t miss Kovy.

    BUTTTT he did make shootout goals :/

    • barkar942 - Jan 13, 2014 at 11:29 PM

      I love Jagr, too, but he sucked at the shootout when he was with the Rangers, too. So don’t feel bad. It’s not like he has lost his touch for the shootout.He has never had any. (Nor Gaborik, either.)

      • radjager - Jan 14, 2014 at 12:24 AM

        At this point I wouldn’t mind seeing Cam Jannsen taking some shootouts

  8. nyjetblue - Jan 13, 2014 at 11:34 PM

    What else is he supposed to say? “I’m miserable here, this league sucks and I totally blew it”?

  9. 950003cups - Jan 14, 2014 at 1:49 AM

    “and I’m excited it worked out for both sides.”

    Oh yeah, totally. In fact, we haven’t missed a beat since you left. Shootouts? Noooooo problem! Goal scoring? Like rain in Seattle! Leadership? Salvador barely goes a shift without turning over the puck, that true leadership! He’s just trying to motivate our guys, I’m sure.

    KOVY!!! Get back here now!!!!!!!!!

  10. mpg44 - Jan 14, 2014 at 8:19 AM

    Whatever you need to tell yourself in the mirror to get through the day. You have no honor and your word is worthless . You asked and even insisted on a 15 year contract from both nj and la . Nobody put a gun to your head and said sign a 15 year contrat or else…. Never forget that.

    • storminator16 - Jan 14, 2014 at 11:02 AM

      LOL, “you have no honor”. You people butt hurt over what Kovalchuk did makes me laugh. What would many of you have done in his situation? NHL/NHLPA did there contractual hissy fit (lockout), he went back home to play and realized he playing back home was a bit euphoric for him. Guy is at the tail end of his career, realizes he only has one life to live…..what would many of you do? I don’t blame him. You guys can’t expect Non-North Americans to think of North America as home. It is different, high paying athlete or not. He did what he felt was right. Move on.

  11. storminator16 - Jan 14, 2014 at 11:04 AM

    And contracts are meant to be broken. If you can deal with that:
    A) Never sign a contract.
    B) Follow college sports.

    • storminator16 - Jan 14, 2014 at 11:04 AM

      “can’t” deal with that.

  12. swesson57 - Jan 14, 2014 at 11:19 AM

    Nobody cares, nobody cares!

  13. thevreelander - Jan 17, 2014 at 9:58 PM

    Man some fans…….

    The only way Kovalchuck could of ever came out of that contract is if the Devils allowed it, which they did. If they wanted they could of tolled the contract, suspended Kovy from IIHF play, and the KHL wouldn’t have been able to sign him (who knows if the KHL would of honored the NHL/KHL agreement to honor eachother contracts; which has never been broken yet so innocent until proven guilty).

    In the end the only person to blame for the whole Kovy leaving the NHL for the KHL is the NHL. Lockouts where you constantly take away from the players will eat at players who have other options. Not to mention the lack of a transfer agreement between the NHL-KHL and vice versa KHL-NHL. The Devils could of made some big money from SKA for Kovy’s services but the NHL refuses to consider the KHL a real league.

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