In one of the biggest stories of the NHL offseason, New Jersey Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk suddenly retired this summer, ending his time in the league. Before anyone could take it all in, he then announced he was heading back to his native Russia to play in the KHL for enough rubles to buy a small city.
With such a big name player fleeing the NHL, many fans began to wonder if this was the start of a Russian exodus. Pittsburgh Penguins star Evgeni Malkin publicly stated he didn’t expect Russian superstars to follow in Kovalchuk’s footsteps. Was this personal opinion or fact based on what he’s heard from fellow countrymen in the league?
An even bigger question; would the league’s biggest Russian superstar, Washington Capitals forward Alexander Ovechkin, migrate east anytime soon because of this move? Its no secret that his former team, Dynamo Moscow, has been attempting to lure him back onto their roster. Was Kovalchuk the final domino?
Well, rest assured Capitals fans. Ovechkin has eight years left on his contract, and he intends to honor them. Speaking with the Canadian Press, the Washington superstar says he’s flattered by the attention from his old club, but he’s not going back anytime soon.
“Yeah, I’m here and I’m gonna work for my contract,” Ovechkin said. “Not gonna worry about it.”
“It’s nice to hear from my first club when I’m growing up, they want me. But I’m here and I have a contract.”
Was there a ton of drama and baited breath in terms of Ovechkin and bailing for Russia? Not really. But still, with the suddenness of Kovalchuk’s decision, commissioner Gary Bettman has to feel good knowing one of the biggest names in the league intends to honor his contract instead of scrap it and retire.
Never mind what it would’ve done for Bettman and his TV ratings, Ovechkin pulling a move out of Kovalchuk’s playbook would’ve been decimating for the Capitals. They’re already a team some believe are running low on time in terms of contention, but cut out their superstar and they’re an absolute mess.
For what its worth, Ovechkin claimed he’s fully healed from the fractured foot he suffered in the playoffs last year against the New York Rangers, and he’s aching to get back with his Washington teammates.
“I miss hockey and I miss my team.”