SKA St. Petersburg announced on Monday morning that it has signed former New Jersey Devils forward – and now-retired NHL player – Ilya Kovalchuk to a 4-year contract. He will wear No. 17.
No financial terms were disclosed, but reports had his annual salary at $10 million per season.
Said KHL President Alexander Medvedev on KHL.ru:
“It is a pleasure to confirm that Ilya Kovalchuk took advantage of his legal right to continue his hockey career outside of the NHL, and has signed a contract with SKA. I will point out that the contract is signed in adherence to all legal rules if the KHL and the NHL, in full accordance with the new Memorandum of Understanding between the Leagues. In the nearest future the contract will be officially registered in the [KHL] Central Information Bureau database.”
Did Kovalchuk do it for the money? His new team says no.
Said SKA Vice President Roman Rotenberg to SovSport:
“Ilya negotiated everything on his own. All respect should go only to him. Our club couldn’t participate in the negotiation as a matter of fact. But Ilya came to an agreement with the Devils management and Lou Lamoriello, who should also be given respect. He heard Kovalchuk and let him go from his team.
“This is a serious thing. Because a player with a superstar status, having a record contract came up and said ‘You know, I want to go home. To play in Russia, to live close to my family. To be closer to people and my fans.’ Ilya Kovalchuk is a real hero in this situation. A hero of Russia, I think. These are not loud words, but the reality. A man, who didn’t let anyone down. Didn’t screw anyone up. A true patriot. What other words can there be?
“I wouldn’t want to go into the financial details. But I will repeat one thing: Ilya didn’t do it for the money, but for Russia.”
Finally, SKA President, Head of the Board of the KHL to SKA official website:
“We are one team, but, as it is known, a role of an individual is important in history, that is why our main efforts in the transfer market were geared towards inviting Ilya Kovalchuk – a world star of hockey… A huge role in the fact that this transfer was made possible was the fact that Ilya Kovalchuk wanted it himself, because it is very important for us for a player to want to play specifically for SKA. Ilya spent more than half a season with our team, learned about its infrastructure, saw sell-outs at every game and expressed his desire to wear SKA colors going forward, and we are very happy for that.”
Until he returns to the NHL, of course.