Kovalchuk played 11 seasons in the league, including the last four with New Jersey. He retires with 417 goals and 399 assists for 816 points along with 516 penalty minutes in 816 career regular-season games.
"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 in a statement. "Though I decided to return this past season, [Devils president and GM] Lou [Lamoriello] 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."
The 30-year-old Russian star signed a massive 17-year, $102-million US deal with New Jersey in 2010.
Kovalchuk scored 89 goals and 112 assists for 201 points in 222 games with the Devils, while adding eight goals and 11 assists in 23 playoff contests.
"After many conversations with Ilya over the past year on his desire to retire from the National Hockey League, Ilya’s decision became official today," Lamoriello said in the statement released by the team. "On behalf of the entire organization, I wish Ilya and his family all the best in their future endeavors."
Kovalchuk had 11 goals and 16 assists in 32 career NHL playoff games with New Jersey and Atlanta, and has represented Russia at three Olympic Winter Games, nine world championships, one world junior championship and the 2004 World Cup.
He was traded to New Jersey by Atlanta on February 4, 2010 and helped the Devils reach the 2012 Stanley Cup final.
The former 2001 first overall selection recorded five 40-goal seasons and reached the 50-goal threshold twice.
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