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Ilya Valeryevich Kovalchuk (born April 15, 1983) is a Russian professional ice hockey left winger. Drafted first overall in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft by the Atlanta Thrashers, he began his NHL career in 2001-02 with Atlanta and was nominated for the Calder Memorial Trophy as league rookie-of-the-year.
Ilya Kovalchuk is a three-time NHL All-Star and won the Maurice 'Rocket' Richard Trophy as the league's leading goal-scorer in 2004 in a three-way tie with Jarome Iginla and Rick Nash. After eight seasons with the Thrashers, he was traded to the Devils in February 2010, and later signed a 15-year, $100 million contract during the off-season after a 17-year, $102 million was rejected by the league.
On July 11, 2013, Ilya Kovalchuk chose to quit the National Hockey League at the age of 30. Although the Devils' general manager, Lou Lamoriello, knew that Kovalchuk had been considering retirement since before the 2012–13 shortened season, Kovalchuk's departure came as a surprise to the public. Upon his leaving, Kovalchuk had $77 million and 12 years remaining on his contract. Kovalchuk claimed that he desired to return home to Russia along with his family.
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