Remember back in 2013 when Ilya Kovalchuk left $77 million on the table and voluntarily retired from the NHL to play in Russia? If you’re a Devils fan, odds are you do (and also remember missing the playoffs by 5 points because of that douche quiiter). The NHL was coming off a strike-shortened season and Kovalchuk thought he could save money by paying less taxes. One assumes he remembered what Russia was like and still decided to go.
Found a beer for Kovalchuk pic.twitter.com/6SgtK7QN2w
— Atlanta Thrashers (@NotThrashers) February 25, 2016
So he’s playing for SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL, and last season he led them to the Gagarin Cup, and was playoff MVP (holy crap, the Gagarin Cup may be the coolest championship trophy name ever!). But this year, he’s been playing like crapsky (and reportedly not really trying), and was benched in Game 1 of the playoffs against Lokomotiv (again, an awesome name!). What’s more, he may be a scratch for Games 3 & 4. So suddenly, the NHL is looking good again, even though he’s the guy that tried to circumvent the league’s salary cap with a crazy 17-year contract, costing the Devils a cool $3 million American.
BREAKING: After watching the 1st period of tonight's Devils game, Ilya Kovalchuk has decided to remain in Russia.
— Cory Schneider's Ego (@CSchneidersEgo) February 26, 2016
But for Kovalchuk to return to the NHL, he must overcome two barriers. First, his KHL contract goes through next season (but he may have a loophole in his KHL contract allowing him to quit). Second, since he voluntarily retired from the NHL, he needs the approval of all 30 teams.
And we can all guess what the Devils will say about that.
Photo via Getty
David Young has been a columnist for ESPN and for Sports Illustrated.