Devils players didn’t see Kovalchuk retirement coming

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If you were blindsided by Ilya Kovalchuk’s decision to announce his retirement for the purposes of heading to the KHL, you aren’t alone.

We previously reported that Zach Parise was “shocked” when he found out about the news and apparently that was the word of the day for the Devils.

“It’s definitely a little bit of a shocker,” Travis Zajac told the Bergen Record. “I didn’t really see that coming.”

Zajac was so surprised when he first heard the news that he reached out to Record writer Tom Gulitti to see if the reports were true. Martin Brodeur also used the word “shocker” to describe his reaction.

“I was like, ‘What? I’m the one who should be having that news. Not him,’” Brodeur, 41, added.

Devils captain Bryce Salvador also used the word of the day, but added that “you’ve got to respect” his desire to play at home.

Brodeur took things a bit further and suggested that the lockout might have played an important role in Kovalchuk’s decision.

“When you go through what he went through with his contract and the controversy and everything and to finally settle on a number and you turn around and that number is change dramatically because of the new CBA, that might have ticked him off a lot,” Brodeur said. “And for him, if there wasn’t a lockout, he would have never tasted the KHL.”

Brodeur added that as a player, he can understand Kovalchuk’s decision, but as a man that’s invested decades into the New Jersey Devils, he’s disappointed.

“He committed himself for a long time and when you turn around a few years after and you decide to just leave everything, it’s not like we’re getting anything for him,” Brodeur said. “If anything, it’s costing us money on the cap ($250,000 per season for 12 years as the cap recapture penalty for retiring before the end of the contract).”

One other sentiment that multiple Devils shared: Replacing Kovalchuk isn’t simple. But they’re going to try and win anyways.