The unthinkable has happened this afternoon, as Ilya Kovalchuk has possibly crippled the New Jersey Devils from a goal scoring standpoint by retiring from the National Hockey League. At just 30, Kovalchuk is leaving $77M US on the table and electing to play the rest of his career in Russia.
Because the Devils didn't get a large cap-savings benefit from Kovalchuk in the first few years of his contract, his cap recapture penalty is a miniscule $250K, but it's applied to the Devils' cap until 2025, a persistent reminder of a superstar forward who chose to sign with them long term, then abandoned them.
What's hilarious is that Kovalchuk is an alternate captain for the Devils too, so much for leadership by example.
A team that struggled mightily to score last season in spite of being an elite possession team, the Devils were looking pretty good with the addition of Cory Schneider along with Michael Ryder (a high percentage shooter), and Ryane Clowe (a big body to replace the outgoing Clarkson). Now however, they are bereft of high end talent outside an aging Patrik Elias, and would be lucky to contend for a playoff spot.
Even worse? They don't have a first-round pick this season as punishment for circumventing the cap in signing Kovalchuk in the first place. Does that make him the worse signing in NHL history?