Wow. What else is there to say regarding the breaking news that New Jersey Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk is retiring from the NHL?
He is perhaps the most gifted scorer in the team's history, and certainly is better than anyone they've had in recent years. If he doesn't play another game in the NHL he will end up with 417 goals and 399 assists. Other than his rookie year with the Atlanta Thrashers, Kovalchuk topped 30 goals in every full season of his NHL career.
If you are one of the dozens of Devils fans out there, you're probably in a bit of a panic. I imagine their reaction resembles the mix of confusion and anxiety my dogs express when we turn on the vacuum cleaner. But unlike my dogs, there is no closet sanctuary for Devils fans run to until the evil machine is tamed and put away.
Devils fans and the team have to face the 2013-2014 season with their primary weapons being a 37-year-old Patrick Elias and 30-year-old Ryan Clowe who is declining and scored a whopping three goals last season.
Sure, they still have Corey Schneider and Martin Brodeur in net, but you can't win if you can't score. Good goaltending and team defense can get you to the playoffs (See Phoenix Coyotes, Nashville Predators and 2010-2011 Pittsburgh Penguins), but a team needs serious goal-scoring ability to hoist the Stanley Cup.
What makes this news even sweeter, or bitter if you're a Devils fan, is that the Devils won't have their first-round pick next year because they got busted circumventing the salary cap with Kovalchuk deal. And with no Kovalchuk, that could be a top 10 pick they'll be missing out on.
The good news for Devils fans, is the team is not required to pay Kovalchuk anything. That means they might not run out of money this year! The move will also clear up cap space and the Devils will only be penalized $250K per season for the next 12 years, according to Bob McKenzie. That is much better than the $3.7 million per season they would be paying for seven years if he had retired in five years.
Kovalchuk's retirement may help the team down the line by freeing up cap space. Then again, would you rather cap flexibility or a potential 40-goal scorer who was on a road to the Hall of Fame?
You can read the Devils' and Kovalchuk's statements here.