“This decision was something I have thought about for a long time going back to the lockout and spending the year in Russia,” Kovalchuk said yesterday in a statement. “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, 30, spent the past four seasons with New Jersey after being drafted by the Atlanta Thrashers with the first pick in 2001. He had 417 goals and 399 assists in 816 career games.
He had 12 years remaining on a 17-year, $102 million contract signed in 2010. The front-loaded contract was ruled to violate terms of the league’s previous collective bargaining agreement and the Devils were fined $3 million and surrendered three draft picks, including a first-round pick in 2014.
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