Four days after Ilya Kovalchuk's shocking retirement from the Devils, he's found himself a job. As expected, Kovalchuk's deal with SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL was made official today. Let's see how much he'll make, and then maybe we'll stop calling his NHL retirement "shocking."
It's a four-year contract with SKA, with whom Kovalchuk played during last year's lockout. According to a Russian report (via Puck Daddy), he could make $15-$20 million a year. So much for leaving money on the table—Kovalchuk could make back the $77 million (over 12 years) remaining on his massive Devils contract in just a few seasons.
It's time to stop asking why any player would willing spurn the NHL. Kovalchuk gets to go home. He'll make more money, and faster. He'll get endorsement deals, which are hard to come by in North America for Russian players not named Alex Ovechkin. With certain KHL clubs awash with money—Alexander Radulov is making more than $9 million annually—the question instead becomes this: If you're a Russian player of any worth, why would you ever stay in the NHL?
Here's the best part for Kovalchuk, in case he tires of St. Petersburg: he just has to wait a few years to come back. Larry Brooks of the Post consulted the NHL bylaws, and ran it by Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly—On his 35th birthday, before the 2018-19 season, Kovalchuk will be removed from the league's voluntary retired list, and would be able to sign with any NHL team he wants, without getting permission from the Devils.