New Jersey forward Ilya Kovalchuk, nearly a King in 2010, retires from NHL

It sounds like a Twitter hoax, but it’s the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. The New Jersey Devils announced on Thursday that forward Ilya Kovalchuk would retire from the NHL. He played with the Devils the last four seasons and 11 overall in the league, scoring 417 goals and adding 399 assists in 816 games.

He went to New Jersey in a trade from the late, not-so-great Atlanta Thrashers (now Winnipeg Jets) and the Kings recruited him hard during the summer of 2010, when he became a free agent. Team captain Dustin Brown and defenseman Matt Greene were along for the sales pitch. Kovalchuk ultimately re-signed with the Devils, a 15-year, $101-million blockbuster. The Kings would meet Kovalchuk again in the 2012 Stanley Cup Final, defeating him and the Devils in six games.

Said Kovalchuk in a statement released by the Devils: “This decision is 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, the Devils’ GM) 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 leaves with $77 million left on his contract and creates a huge void in the Devils’ roster and in the league as a whole.

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