Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 8/15/14
Ilya Kovalchuk’s name resurfaces periodically whenever there is talk about the Devils’ need to add a goal-scorer, but general manager Lou Lamoriello and owner Josh Harris confirmed the Russian winger has not entered the NHL club’s thoughts since he left last summer to play in the KHL. There is a good reason for that. All along there has been no chance of Kovalchuk’s return. “No,” said Harris, who purchased the Devils along with David Blitzer just over a month after Kovalchuk “retired” from the NHL to go home to Russia. Lamoriello stressed why Kovalchuk would be unable to come back before 2018-19. “I’ll answer that the best way you can. He cannot come back until he is 35. He’s (31) now. You’d never look at someone coming back at 35 when he’s (31),” the GM explained. Kovalchuk left the Devils on July 11, 2013,three years into a 15-year, $100 million contract. He had 12 years and $77 million remaining when he signed a four-year deal with SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL. Harris, Lamoriello and Scott O’Neil, CEO of the Devils and Prudential Center, met Thursday with NJ Advance Media editors and reporters. They addressed a variety of topics, including the financial difficulties plaguing the Devils when Harris and Blitzer bought the franchise from Jeff Vanderbeek. While Kovalchuk’s departure may have appeared to help the debt-riddled Devils, losing him had a negative impact on the team. They have missed the playoffs two straight seasons, including two of the four seasons Kovalchuk was with the club. Harris spoke about missing the postseason in 2014, stressing that he still believes in Lamoriello. “Lou and I are very different. We’re different ages and we’ve had different experiences,” Harris noted. “But I buy into his system and the reality is, stuff happens. It was a difficult situation before we got here. I don’t know how much of that reflected itself. “You had a lot of complexity around Kovalchuk and some other things. It was a disappointing season. I see it. I was unhappy. I didn’t like being home watching the playoffs on TV. I wanted to be in the playoffs. That’s not lost on me. At the same time, good people and good systems can have disappointing years. We’re long term. We’re focused on making this a great franchise over the long term.” Kovalchuk was signed by the Devils (twice, in fact), while Vanderbeek was still owner.
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