Devils Looking For Scoring Help with Loss of Kovalchuk
Added by Tim Purcell on July 18, 2013.
(Photo credit: MIKE SEGAR/Reuters)
When Russian superstar Ilya Kovalchuk shocked the NHL, and the rest of the hockey world with his abrupt retirement, no hearts were more broken than that of the entire New Jersey Devils organization.
August 27, 2010, will be known as the day that changed the New Jersey franchise forever. On that day, General Manager Lou Lamoriello signed Kovalchuk to an extension that all believed would keep him in New Jersey for the remainder of his playing days; fans around the world could not be more wrong. Just three short, underachieving years later, Kovalchuk decided to leave North America, and return to his home in the KHL.
During the 2012-2013 NHL Lockout, Kovalchuk made the decision to play overseas in Russia for SKA St. Petersburg. Once the players and owners came to an agreement, Kovalchuk was the last player to return to North American soil. He continually expressed interest in wanting to remain in his homeland for the remainder of the season, but was unable to because of the contract he was “committed” to with New Jersey. The 48-game season, came and went, with the Devils missing the playoffs for the second time in three years, and there didn’t even appear to be a whisper about Kovalchuk heading back home.
July 11, 2013 the entire world of hockey was left speechless. Kovalchuk formally signed his voluntary resignation papers, and officially retired from the National Hockey League at age 30. Playing in just 816 games, Kovalchuk logged 417 goals and 399 assists for 816 points, marking him the most dominant hockey player in the last 10 years. The Russian native has been under much scrutiny the past six days, hearing it from past, and resent stars. Kovalchuk is walking away from the Devils with 12 years, and $77 million left o his record-breaking contract.
With the departure of arguably one of the most dominant players in the league, Lamoriello and the Devils are faced with some serious challenges. Management has already filled some of the holes left by individuals such as David Clarkson, who signed a 7-year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs last week, by bringing in power-forward Ryane Clowe, as well as top-6 hopeful Michael Ryder.
With available free agents such as Jaromir Jagr, Mason Raymond, and Damien Brunner, Uncle Lou and the Devils may be searching for Ilya’s replacement on the inside. Stefan Matteau, the Devils first round pick in 2012, is hoping to make his second chance count, hoping to crack a roster spot for opening night in October. In 17 games during his rookie campaign with the Devils last year, Matteau was able to notch his first career NHL goal, as well as two assists. Hoping to add some size and strength, Matteau is ready to begin camp this week.
Possibly the most talked about prospect in this organization, 4th round draft pick Reid Boucher is hoping that the scoring touch he found in the OHL, can carry over to the best league in the world. In his 2012-2013 campaign with the Sarnia Sting, Boucher was able to break the OHL record of goals in a single season, recently held by none other than Steven Stamkos. Boucher was able to score 62 goals in 68 games for the Sting, beating out Stamkos by four goals. Boucher added 33 assists on the season, to give himself 95 points in just 68 games.
Lamoriello and the rest of the Devils front office is working hard, trying to put the best product they can on the ice by opening night. The Devils will not have a 1st round pick this year, due to the penalty they were given when illegally signing Kovalchuk to a contract that circumvented the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Without an early pick, the Devils organization wants to make sure they have a low enough pick where it will not matter as much; going for 29th, or maybe even 30th.
Uncle Lou still has a lot of work to do before opening night, but if anyone can put a winning team on the ice without a superstar there, its Mr. Lamoriello.