NEWARK, N.J. - New Jersey superstar forward Ilya Kovalchuk is retiring from the NHL and returning to Russia.
The Devils released the stunning news Thursday afternoon in a statement, saying that the 30-year-old Kovalchuk had alerted them earlier this year that he wanted to return home with his family after 11 seasons in the NHL.
The move is more surprising because Kovalchuk signed a $100 million, 15-year contract in 2010. He'll be walking away from it.
Devils president and general manager Lou Lamoriello said he had many conversations with Kovalchuk about his decision to retire from the NHL and the move become official on Thursday.
Kovalchuk spent his last four seasons with the Devils, helping them reach the Stanley Cup finals in 2012. He scored 417 goals and 399 assists for 816 points in games with New Jersey and Atlanta, which traded him to New Jersey.