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MOSCOW, July 12. /ITAR-TASS/. Forward of New Jersey Devils Ilya Kovalchuk decided to end his career in the National Hockey League /NHL/, as reported by the official site of the American hockey club.
"After long negotiations with Ilya, which lasted for more than a year, we officially announce today about the decision of the player to leave the NHL. On behalf of the entire organization, I wish to Ilya and his family all the best for the future" the general manager of New Jersey Devils Lou Lamoriello said.
Kovalchuk has been playing in the NHL since 2001. His first club was Atlanta Thrashers, for which he played until February 2010. Then he moved to the New Jersey Devils. During his career in the NHL Kovalchuk spent 816 games, scored 417 goals and made 399 assists.
"The decision was made when I played for SKA"
Kovalchuk said that the decision of taking such a step he took during the last lockout, which he spent in St. Petersburg’s SKA. "This decision was the result of my long deliberation during the lockout, which I spent in Russia. Lou Lamoriello /general manager of the club/ knew about my desire to go home with my family. The hardest thing for me right now is to leave the New Jersey, this huge club, which I infinitely respect, the fans of which have always treated me greatly" Kovalchuk said quoted by the press service of New Jersey.
Comeback to St. Petersburg
Kovalchuk may return to the St. Petersburg SKA. According to U.S. media reports, the 30-year-old striker has already reached an agreement with the Russian team. It is expected that the transition will be officially announced on Friday. According to deputy NHL Commissioner Bill Daly, the Russian will not have any legal problems after the termination of the contract with the New Jersey. "Kovalchuk can go to any club outside of the NHL without any obstacles" Daley said quoted by Canadian press. During the lockout, Kovalchuk had 36 games for SKA, scored 18 goals and 24 times assisted to partners.
Well-known sports agent Shumi Babaev is convinced that Kovalchuk will play for SKA of St. Petersburg. "This team did everything to sign Kovalchuk" the agent said. - Moreover, it was SKA that pushed Ilya to take this decision. Negotiations were long and intensive. In 99 percent it can be said that he will be in the St. Petersburg club. I do not see any other options. SKA really needs a hockey player that has not only great gaming but also human qualities. He is a true leader who will not just serve the number on the rink and will make every effort to achieve a positive outcome."
"I think that in the transfer of Kovalchuk from NHL has played a big role the financial component of the issue - namely, a huge contract worth $10 million a year" said hockey agent Alexei Dementyev. “Thus, New Jersey is not opposed to the transition of the player to the Kontinental Hockey League /KHL/. The team maintains priority rights for him and, in the case of return of the Russian to NHL, will be the first to claim him"- said Dementyev.
The return of Ilya Kovalchuk to the KHL is a big plus for the Russian team and the fans. "This is a surprise to many, but he is 30 years old and he has the right to decide all by himself" development vice-president of the KHL and well-known former striker Valeri Kamensky said. "However, such a transition will not change his career much. Ilya will continue to delight fans, praising Russian and Soviet hockey. If Kovalchuk wants to return to the NHL, there will be no problem with that, because his services would be useful to any of the clubs in the league. This is a true leader and captain, who with his play proves everything to everyone."