By Lisa Dillman
5:03 PM EDT, July 11, 2013
They often say the best deals are the ones that did not occur.
The Los Angeles Kings are likely breathing a sigh of relief, giving major thanks that they did not win out on the Ilya Kovalchuk sweepstakes three summers ago.
It came down to the Kings and the Devils in a wild summer of trying to sign the free agent star left winger. Kovalchuk stayed in New Jersey after the league had rejected the Devils' original contract offer and the team cycled back with another proposal.
Because of all that, the Devils were fined $3 million, surrendered a third-round pick in 2011 and still are required to give up a future first-round selection.
Talk about buyer beware.
Kovalchuk, 30, walked away from $77 million and his NHL career when he announced Thursday that he was retiring from the league. He had played three seasons into a mega contract worth $100 million.
There is widespread speculation that he will return to the KHL to play with St. Petersburg SKA, a club he joined for 37 games during the NHL's lockout.
“This decision was something I have thought about for a long time going back to the lockout and spending the year in Russia,” he said in a statement.
“Though I decided to return this past season, Lou [Lamoriello] was aware of my desire to go back home and have my family there with me. The most difficult thing for me is to leave the New Jersey Devils, a great organization that I have a lot of respect for, and our fans that have been great to me.”
Two major stars are now gone from the New Jersey team that lost to the Kings in the Stanley Cup final in 2012: Kovalchuk and Zach Parise, who signed with the Minnesota Wild last summer.
Said New Jersey Devils President and GM Lou Lamoriello: “After many conversations with Ilya over the past year on his desire to retire from the National Hockey League, Ilya’s decision became official today.
“On behalf of the entire organization, I wish Ilya and his family all the best in their future endeavors.”
The website capgeek.com said that the Devils will be charged $250,000 against the cap per season, through 2024-25, also known as the recapture penalty.
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