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Ilya Kovalchuk Announces Retirement

by Photo of Karly Redpath

New Jersey Devils forward announced his retirement on Thursday ending his 11-year NHL career.

Ilya Kovalchuk Announces Retirement

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On July 11, the New Jersey Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk announced his decision to retire, putting an abrupt end to his 11-year NHL career at the age of 30.

The Devils released a statement from Kovalchuck on Thursday about his decision to retire. Here's what he had to say:

"This decision was something I have thought about for a long time going back to the lockout and spending the year in Russia. Though I decided to return this past season, Lou [Lamoriello, general manager] 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."

Kovalchuk played a total of 816 games with the Atlanta Thrashers (2001-2010) and the New Jersey Devils (2010-2013). He had a career total of 417 goals and 399 assists; 816 points in his 816 games.

He won the Rocket Richard Award (leading goal scorer) in 2003-04 with 41 goals, and posted a career-best 52 in 2005-06. In the 2012-2013 season His best season he had 38 goals and 83 points in 77 games. The Devils made it to the Stanley Cup playoffs where he scored 19 points in 23 games and helped the Devils reach the Stanley Cup Final.

New Jersey acquired Kovalchuk from the Thrashers before the 2010 trade deadline. After originally signing him to a 17-year contract, it was reworked and the organization signed him to his current 15-year, $100 million deal. With his retirement Kovalchuk leaves 12 years and $77 million behind him.

In the past two offseasons, the Devils have lost three key components to their 2011-2012 Stanley Cup Final team: Zach Parise and David Clarkson left as free agents and now they lose Kovalchuk to retirement.

Kovalchuk's premature retirement comes as a surprise to many NHL fans, but the Devils obviously wished their forward the best. 

"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," Lou Lamoriello said in a statement. "On behalf of the entire organization, I wish Ilya and his family all the best in their future endeavors."

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