When the lockout happened, Ilya Kovalchuk took the opportunity to play for SKA St. Petersburg of the Kontinental Hockey League. He returned to the New Jersey Devils when the work stoppage happened, but it looks like his time there was a key factor in his decision to walk away from the NHL.
Kovalchuk’s mother opened up to the media about what transpired and one of the first questions she was asked was if he enjoyed his time with SKA.
“Of course,” Kovalchuk’s mother told SovSport’s in an interview translated by Puck Daddy’s Dmitry Chesnokov. “Otherwise this question about leaving the NHL wouldn’t even be raised. And so it happened.”
Kovalchuk first began to talk about this matter with his family back in January, but he finished the season with the Devils so everything could be handled in a “civilized manner.”
Some will still be surprised that Kovalchuk would leave the NHL with $77 million over 12 years left on his contract, but his mother argued that number is misleading.
“After the lockout, there are a lot of restrictions at all teams,” she said. “They are also underpaid 20% [of their salary]. The League takes it as an escrow that may not be paid back if the NHL does not make profit. And then there’s government tax of 50%. That means on paper you are being paid $10 million a year, but in reality only 3. So the pendulum swung for Russia.”
How much Kovalchuk will make in the KHL is unclear, but there are reports indicating that he could end up making more annually at a taxation rate of 13%.
But for now, all that’s official is that he has retired from the NHL:
Devils players didn’t see Kovalchuk retirement coming
So, what’s next for the Devils without Kovalchuk?
What they’re saying about Kovalchuk bolting for the KHL
For two periods, the Dallas Stars seemed to say, “Are you sure the Washington Capitals are the best team in the NHL?”
They chased Braden Holtby and built a 4-0 lead through those first 40 minutes, and that was enough … but barely. The Stars beat the Capitals 4-3 on Saturday, which accomplished the following:
- Dallas ended Washington’s winning streak at five games. The Stars have now won three straight.
- This win slides the Stars ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks for first place in the highly competitive Central Division. While both teams sit at 77 standings points, Dallas holds three games in hand.
- By passing Chicago, the Stars now lead the Western Conference as a whole.
Impressive stuff. Some might even call it a statement game, although others may hold that nail-biting ending against them (possibly arguing that the Stars’ flaws may come back to haunt them in the playoffs).
Dallas’ biggest concern likely has little to do with doubters. Instead, they must monitor the statuses of forwards Tyler Seguin and Cody Eakin.
Long story short, the Stars are red-hot, yet bigger challenges likely lie ahead.
The Chicago Blackhawks are on edge on Saturday, and it’s not because of what’s currently a close game against the Anaheim Ducks.
(Not that they’re indifferent toward a match against their opponents from last year’s conference final match, mind you.)
Instead, the Blackhawks are quite concerned about the health of Marian Hossa, who needed help off of the ice following an awkward, scary-looking crash into the boards. (Hampus Lindholm delivered the hip check that sent Hossa sprawling, in case you’re wondering.)
You can see that moment in the video above, while My Regular Face’s GIF also captures that troubling moment:
It’s too early to tell if Hossa will bounce back or miss some time from this. Stay tuned for potential updates.
Update: Joel Quenneville seems optimistic about Hossa, broadly speaking:
Ryan Getzlaf scored the overtime game-winner as the Ducks won 3-2 (OT).
If it weren’t for Mike Yeo and the Minnesota Wild, you could argue that the Florida Panthers suffered from the worst night so far.
You can see that Saturday was unpleasant merely from looking at the scoreboard: the Nashville Predators pummeled the Panthers by an unkind score of 5-0.
The pain goes beyond that … literally so.
For one thing, Quinton Howden suffered an upper-body injury and did not return. That’s no good, but if you want to feel sick to your stomach, footage of Brandon Pirri‘s likely lower-body injury (ankle maybe?) may do the trick.
(Seriously, you may be happier if you don’t look.)
The Panthers didn’t make an announcement about Pirri one way or another, so we’ll see if he somehow avoided anything significant.
Either way, it was a night this team would like to forget.
It’s unlikely that Chris Stewart will generate another 30-goal season in the NHL, but he still might be missed by the Anaheim Ducks.
The team announced that the ornery forward is expected to miss four-to-eight weeks with a fractured jaw. If that’s the recovery window, Stewart may go into the playoffs a little rusty (if he can get in any regular season games at all).
The Ducks didn’t elaborate, but the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline believes that the injury happened during a fight with Dalton Prout of the Columbus Blue Jackets. You can see that brawl in the video above.
One bright side for Anaheim: if they believe that they need to replace what Stewart brings to the table (rugged play with a dash of offense), then at least this injury happened before the the Feb. 29 trade deadline.