The New Jersey Devils went to great lengths this summer to secure a long-term contract for Ilya Kovalchuk, eventually working out a 15-year, $100 million pact after a previous attempt was rejected by the league for circumvention of the salary cap.
And now seven games into the regular season Kovalchuk is a healthy scratch, sitting out Saturday's 6-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres. Bet you didn't see that one coming.
The six-time 40-goal scorer entered this weekends action tied for the team lead with five points (two goals, three assists) in seven games, but was held off the scoresheet in each of the past two games. According to the Bergen Record's Tom Gulitti, Kovalchuk took part in the morning skate, but was not an active participant in pre-game warm ups.
Left wing Ilya Kovalchuk is not in the Devils' lineup. A team spokesperson said Kovalchuk is a healthy scratch. Rookie left wing Alexander Vasyunov was called up late this afternoon to take his place in the lineup. The team didn't announce Vasyunov's call-up until about 6:10 p.m.Kovalchuk's contract runs through the 2025 season and carries an annual cap hit of $6.6 million per season.
Kovalchuk participated in the optional morning skate today and in Friday's practice. He was working on his game sticks this morning outside the locker room after the skate. This is the first game he has missed with the Devils since joining them in a Feb. 4 trade with Atlanta.
Following the game, Devils head coach John Maclean told reporters: "My decision. He knows why. I discussed it with him, and that's it."
On whether or not Kovalchuk will play on Sunday against the New York Rangers, Maclean said "I'll make that decision in the morning."