Ilya Kovalchuk is a three-time NHL All-Star who signed a 15-year, $100 million contract with the New Jersey Devils in 2010. This afternoon he retired.
The 30-year-old Russian was the first overall pick in the 2001 NHL Draft and played eight seasons with the Atlanta Thrashers, captaining their team and setting their single season goal record (52) before being traded to New Jersey in 2010.
At the time, the Devils tried to ink a 17-year, $102 million deal with Kovalchuk, but it was rejected by the NHL because it circumvented the league’s salary cap (follow the link to learn more about how and why). The result was an only-slightly-less-circumventy 15-year deal at $100 million, locking up Kovalchuk until the age of 42. Partly because of this ordeal, in the new NHL collective bargaining agreement, the league and the union agreed to change their rules, making eight years the longest possible contract. And now, by abruptly retiring and leaving $77 million on the table, Kovalchuk is back in the news for his weird contract yet again. Ilya Kovalchuk: a pretty good hockey player outshined by a few pieces of paper that he signed in 2010.