June 6, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; New Jersey Devils left wing Ilya Kovalchuk (17) during the third period in game four of the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals against the Los Angeles Kings at the Staples Center. The Devils won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Ilya Kovalchuk Signs With KHL Team

Ilya Kovalchuk recently retired from the NHL with $77 million left on his contract with the New Jersey Devils. But this afternoon, the forward signed a deal with the Russian team, SKA St. Petersburg for four years. The Kontinental Hockey League team did not acknowledge the details of the contract in their statement on Monday, other than the length.

Kovalchuk caught SKA’s president, Gennady Timchenko’s eye, as he called the former NHL star a “real leader.” It also helped that Kovalchuk played with St. Petersburg during the lockout.

It was obvious that the coach of the New Jersey Devils, Pete DeBoer, was disappointed when Kovalchuk left. He knows that this loss put the team behind even more than they already were. Here’s what he had to say about some of the Devil’s more recent stars leaving the team.

Sure it’s different. You take out a Parise, you take out a Kovalchuk, those are players that single-handedly can do some things that only a handful of players in the world can do. So we’re going to have to be a different team and have to play more of a team game.

It opens the door for the Devils to let some younger players get playing time, although it will be hard to find someone to replace Ilya Kovalchuk. Maybe there’s a gem sitting on their bench, or within their 2013 draft picks – only time will tell.

Tags: Ilya Kovalchuk New Jersey Devils NHL