BREAKING: Kovalchuk retires from NHL (!!!)

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Stunning news out of New Jersey — Ilya Kovalchuk has announced his retirement from the NHL.

“This decision was something I have thought about for a long time going back to the lockout and spending the year in Russia,” Kovalchuk said in a release. “Though I decided to return this past season, [Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello] was aware of my desire to go back home and have my family there with me. The most difficult thing for me is to leave the New Jersey Devils, a great organization that I have a lot of respect for, and our fans that have been great to me.”

“After many conversations with Ilya over the past year on his desire to retire from the National Hockey League, Ilya’s decision became official today,” said Lamoriello. “On behalf of the entire organization, I wish Ilya and his family all the best in their future endeavors.”

Kovalchuk, 30, retires with career NHL totals of 417 goals and 399 assists in 816 games.

He also walks away from a $100 million contract with $77 million left to be paid out (around $60 million in the next six seasons).

Per CapGeek, Kovalchuk’s early retirement will leave the Devils with an annual $250,000 cap recapture penalty through 2024-25, the last season of his contract.

Lamoriello confirmed on a conference call with reporters that Kovalchuk’s contract with the Devils has been voided.

It’s expected Kovalchuk will sign with KHL club SKA Saint Petersburg, for whom he played during the lockout.

Related:

Kovalchuk threatening to stay in KHL

Kovalchuk wants to finish season in KHL

Kovalchuk insists he never planned on staying in KHL

Kovalchuk: 2013 was ‘probably my worst season’