In a move that will stun many, except perhaps NJ Devils management, their top paid player, and best offensive player, Ilya Kovalchuk has decided to retire to return to his native Russia.

Kovalchuk was traded to the Devils from Atlanta, now an extinct franchise that moved to Winnipeg 2 years ago. The deal was a steal at the time for Jersey.  The best player they gave up in the deal was Johnny Oduya. Atlanta didn't want  to pay the impending free agent and the Devils needed scoring.

After his initial season the Devils did a new deal with Kovalchuk but it was voided by the NHL as New Jersey tried to circumvent the salary cap, or that's what they were accused of. However both sides worked a deal and Kovalchuk stayed in Jersey.

He almost led the Devs to a Stanley Cup title in 2011/2012 but Jersey was beaten by the LA kings in the Cup finals.

Kovalchuk talked about his desire to remain with his family in Russia and not return to the NHL for a 12th season. In 11 years he scored 417 goals and dished 399 assists. With New Jersey in 222 games he tallied 89 goals and set up 112 with assists.

Kovalchuk is only 30 years old. Will he follow in the steps of Jaromir Jagr, who retired then returned to the NHL with Dallas a year later? Time will soon tell.

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