Just confirmed by the official New Jersey Devils' Twitter account, Ilya Kovalchuk has announced his retirement from the NHL.
BREAKING: Ilya Kovalchuk announces he will retire. "This decision was something I have thought about for a long time."— New Jersey Devils (@NHLDevils) July 11, 2013
The news comes as a shock to the hockey world as Kovalchuk just turned 30 this year, and had a whopping 12 years left on his 15-year $100 million contract.
Many are speculating that this is not a complete retirement from hockey, but rather, from the NHL. During last season's lockout, Kovalchuk played with SKA Saint Petersburg of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). The KHL is located in Russia, which is where Kovalchuk is from. He stated earlier that one of the reasons playing into his decision was his desire to be closer to his family. I would be shocked if he didn't sign with a KHL team within the next few weeks.
This shocking retirement saves the Devils $77 million and opens up a ton of room in their cap, as instead of the millions on Kovalchuk's contract, they are only hit for $250K annually. Unfortunately, we are well into the free agent season and many of the most impactful players are off the market. That being said, there are still some floating around should New Jersey decide to make some last minute offers to players such as Mikhail Grabovski or Dustin Penner - possibly even Jaromir Jagr.
New Jersey does not have a first round pick in 2014's draft because of Kovalchuk's signing, and now have lost their most talented offensive weapon. A major blow to a team that has already majorly regressed from losing in the Stanley Cup Finals in 2012 to out of the playoffs last season.
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