Ilya Kovalchuk

Two silver linings for Devils in Kovalchuk retirement


It’s not going to be easy for the New Jersey Devils to replace Ilya Kovalchuk in the wake of his shocking retirement.

One of the game’s top snipers, Kovalchuk finished his NHL career with 417 goals in 816 games for New Jersey and Atlanta.

But if you’re a Devils fan, here are two potential silver linings:

1. Kovalchuk is 30 years old. Lately, injuries were starting to become an issue. In 2013, he only scored 11 goals in 37 games. Wear and tear is a real factor in the NHL; for the most part, it’s a young man’s league. (Not everyone is Teemu Selanne or Nicklas Lidstrom.) Kovalchuk still has a few good years left in him, for sure. But his days of scoring 50 goals were probably over.

2. The cap recapture penalty that’s estimated at $250,000 annually through 2024-25 would’ve been much harsher if Kovalchuk had waited a few more years to walk away. For example, if he’d have left after the 2017-18 season (when $79 million of the $100 million contract had been paid out, per CapGeek), the penalty would’ve been an annual charge of around $3.7 million for seven seasons.

Raffl coverts PTO into one-year, $575K deal with Jets

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There’s another Raffl in the NHL.

On Tuesday, the Jets announced that Thomas Raffl — the older brother of Flyers forward Michael Raffl — has signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $575,000.

Raffl, 29, was in Winnipeg’s camp on a PTO after a lengthy career in Europe. He spent time playing in Sweden and his native Austria, most recently with powerhouse EC Red Bull Salzburg — last year, Raffl scored 53 points in 52 games for Salzburg and three in seven games for Austria while serving as team captain at the World Hockey Championships.

“We would like to recognize and express our appreciation to the EC Red Bull Salzburg organization for allowing Thomas and the Winnipeg Jets this opportunity,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said in a statement.

With the Jets, Raffl projects to play in the bottom-six forward group, where he can utilize his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame in a checking-slash-energy role.

For now, though, he’ll start out with the club’s AHL affiliate in Manitoba.

Flyers to start season with seven d-men; MacDonald sent to AHL

Andrew MacDonald, Matt Calvert
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Seven defensemen will comprise the Philadelphia Flyers’ opening-day roster, which the club finalized today.

Those seven are Radko Gudas, Michael Del Zotto, Luke Schenn, Nick Schultz, Brandon Manning, Mark Streit, and Evgeny Medvedev.

Not on the list? Andrew MacDonald, who has cleared waivers and been assigned to AHL Lehigh Valley. (That move allowed the Flyers to keep both Manning and youngster Scott Laughton.)

Also not on the list were prospects Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg, Sam Morin, Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim. The first three will start the season in the AHL. The last two have been sent back to junior.

But the opening-day roster is not where this story ends. How the Flyers’ defensive mix changes as the season progresses will be worth watching.

They’d no doubt love to move Schenn, a pending unrestricted free agent with a $3.6 million cap hit. He could also end up in the AHL, a la MacDonald.

Medvedev, the 33-year-old who came over from the KHL and put up five points in five preseason games, is another pending UFA. The club could either look to re-sign or flip him.

Might 37-year-old Streit be a chip worth cashing in at the deadline, especially if the Flyers aren’t in a playoff position on Feb. 29? He’s only got two years left on his contract.

Meanwhile, GM Ron Hextall will be watching pending restricted free agents Manning and Gudas closely. Are they part of the future?

So, lots of decisions to make in Philly as the blue line continues its much-needed transition.