Devils preparing for next season without Ilya Kovalchuk


It was the news that shocked the hockey world.

Noted sniper Ilya Kovalchuk surprised many when he announced on July 11 that he was retiring from the National Hockey League and would be heading back to his native Russia.

Wouldn’t you know it, he signed with SKA Saint Petersburg in the Kontinental Hockey League in a deal that was announced four days after his retirement from the NHL and New Jersey Devils.

Now, the Devils must prepare for the upcoming season without Kovalchuk.

“Sure it’s different,” Devils head coach Pete DeBoer told the Star-Ledger in July.

“You take out a (Zach) Parise and you take out a Kovalchuk. Those are players who single-handedly can do some things that only a handful of players in the world can do. We’re going to have to be a different team.

“We’re going to have to play more of a team game. Our five-man units and our systems are going to have to be air tight. Our special teams are going to have to be better. Goaltending is going to have to be top notch like it has been. There is going to be an emphasis on all those areas because you’re taking out a couple game-breaking players.”

It might be difficult to replace the 30-year-old Kovalchuk, who scored 417 goals in 816 career NHL regular season games. He was also rolling along at a point-per-game average.

The Devils, in a bid to add a veteran scoring forward, signed the 41-year-old Jaromir Jagr to a one-year deal with $2 million in base salary.