Ilya Kovalchuk

Kovalchuk’s mom: Time in KHL during lockout strongly influenced decision


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

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.