Ilya Kovalchuk Bolts to KHL: Which Russian Sniper is Next?

Ilya Kovalchuk retired from the NHL to return to his homeland Russia with his family. The New Jersey Devils clearly have a major hole in their lineup left by the departure of super star Kovalchuk. The Devils want to know: why would a man who was just 27 years old sign a fifteen year contract that handcuffed GM Lamoriello's ability to resign other important players such as Zach Parise if his ultimate goal was to walk away after just three years?

On January 10, 2013, Kovalchuk told Slava Malamud of the Russian publication Sport Express, "I want to stay in St. Petersburg but I have contractual obligations in the NHL, which will be hard to break." Malamud recently posted the following tweet:

Sport-Express reported that Kovalchuk and SKA had the terms of his future deal agreed upon back in January. This was a prearranged move.

Kovalchuk said that he left the Devils because of family and love for country. What about money?! The rumor is that SKA offered him $10 million a season. If you factor in his age of 30 and figure that he plays until he is 40, he banks $100 million in tax-free money. The remaining money left on his NHL contract was $77 million over twelve years, which was going to be taxed. His choices were tax-free $100 million over ten years or taxable $77 million over twelve years. Not surprisingly, he chose the former option and left for the KHL.

Another Russian player, 21 year old Winnipeg Jets center Alexander Burmistrov, bolted for the KHL recently as well. "There was tremendous pressure placed on all of the top Russian players at the end of the lockout to stay in the KHL," player agent Allan Walsh said. "And they were offered huge money — upwards of $10 million — just to stay and play the balance of the season." When will Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals, Pavel Datsyuk of the Detroit Red Wings or Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins leave for greener pastures in the KHL?

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