New Jersey Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk is retiring from the NHL just three years removed from signing a 15-year, $100 million contract.
Devils president and general manager Lou Lamoriello had several conversations with Kovalchuk before the official announcement Thursday. Kovalchuk retires with 12 years and $77 million remaining on his deal.
"This decision was something I have thought about for a long time going back to the lockout and spending the year in Russia," The 30-year-old Kovalchuk said in a statement. "Though I decided to return this past season, Lou 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 recently completed his 11th NHL season, having entered the league with the Atlanta Thrashers in 2001. He helped the Devils reach the NHL Finals in 2012, and has scored 417 goals with 399 assists in 816 career games.
He scored 11 goals with 20 assists in 37 games in last season's lockout-shortened campaign, posting a minus-6 ratio.