The teammate who never was

Brendan McCarthy
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Clowe shares some thoughts on Kovalchuk's departure from the Devils

Ryane Clowe

Ryane Clowe was looking forward to playing with Ilya Kovalchuk, and not just for the chance to witness the Russian forward's skills first-hand and to be part of a team that benefitted from them.

That's not going to happen. Last week, Kovalchuk walked away from $77 million left on his 15-year contract with the New Jersey Devils. And on Monday, the Kontinental Hockey League team SKA St. Petersburg announced it had signed Kovalchuk to a four-year deal.

"I don't know him, but I'm friends with Dany Heatley and Colin White, who've played with (Kovalchuk) and they both say he was a great teammate," said Clowe, the Fermeuse native who signed a free-agent contract with the Devils earlier this month.

"It was very surprising. I can understand him wanting to go back to Russia. It's a personal choice. But we're losing a premier player. It leaves a huge hole. I mean this is someone who plays nearly the full two minutes on power plays," added Clowe, who signed a five-year, $24 million deal with the Devils on July 5.

When asked if he might be someone who would get some of that available power-play time, Clowe - a noted power foward -pointed out he and Kovalchuk "are different kinds of players," but said fellow Newfoundlander and new Devils teammate Michael Ryder is certainly someone worth considering.

"Rydes, with that right-handed shot and his quick release ... this could really bump up his time on the PP."

Ryder inked a two-year, $7 million deal with New Jersey the same day Clowe signed on with New Jersey.

SKA did not disclose the terms of its deal with Kovalchuk in a statement Monday.

The 30-year-old Kovalchuk scored 417 goals and added 399 assists in 816 NHL games. His best seasons were in 2005-06 and 2007-08 when he scored a career-high 52 goals. He had three other 40-goal seasons.

Kovalchuk has represented Russia at three Winter Olympics, nine world championships, one world junior championship and the 2004 World Cup. He played with SKA during the most-recent NHL lockout.

"Like I said, this leaves a big, big void," said Clowe.

"But Lou (Devils' general manager Lou Lamoriello) is all about winning. With all that money available towards the salary cap, I wouldn't be surprised if he's already got something in mind to fill that void."

bmcc@thetelegram.com

 

Organizations: New Jersey Devils, Kontinental Hockey League, NHL

Geographic location: Russia, New Jersey, Fermeuse

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