New Jersey Devils In Home Stretch To Say Goodbye To Ilya Kovalchuk

One of the most devastating days for New Jersey Devils fans is the day Ilya Kovalchuk announced his retirement. There is one thing still tying the Devils to the Russian sniper, but that's ending very soon.
Florida Panthers v New Jersey Devils
Florida Panthers v New Jersey Devils / Jim McIsaac/GettyImages

The New Jersey Devils had a few players "go home" on them in the early 2010s, sending the franchise into a decade-long rebuild that they are still hoping to get away from completely. It all started when Zach Parise chose Minnesota over New Jersey in the summer of 2012. That next offseason, David Clarkson went to his native Toronto to sign with the Maple Leafs. Less than a week after Clarkson's decision, Ilya Kovalchuk announced he was "retiring" from the NHL, and we later learned he would go to play in Russia.

Lou Lamoriello clearly saw this coming, and he actually terminated Kovalchuk's contract after his shock retirement. Devils fans thought they had Kovy playing at the Prudential Center for at least a decade. Instead, he played just three seasons in New Jersey. He did help carry the Devils to the 2012 Stanley Cup Final, but that will always have a sour taste in Devils fans' mouths.

The Devils did get lucky that Kovalchuk did this when he did. His contract was structured with some insane payments coming up. He would make more than $11 million in the four years from 2013-14 to 2016-17. The contract paid him until 2025, which brings us to today. Since Kovalchuk was paid more in actual cash than his salary cap hit, the Devils owed the league a cap recapture penalty.

The Devils have been playing without $250,000 in cap space due to the recapture penalty since Kovalchuk retired. The Devils have had two new general managers since then, three (going on four) head coaches, and a new ownership group. Nothing is the same in New Jersey except the building, yet this cap penalty remains. That is, until next offseason.

The cap recapture penalty finally ends, and the name Ilya Kovalchuk will leave the New Jersey Devils CapFriendly page. It will be a glorious day. While it's not a lot, as it's less than half of the NHL minimum salary, it does make it harder for the Devils when they are trying to work the cap gymnastics that comes with being a team close to the salary cap ceiling. That $250,000 will eventually help them at the trade deadline.

At the start of the 2025-26 NHL league year, we will never have to care about the name "Ilya Kovalchuk" ever again.