NEWARK, N.J. — Ilya Kovalchuk is staying with the New Jersey Devils.
The team said on Monday that the biggest prize of the NHL free agent market agreed to a new contract, ending weeks of speculation where the high-scoring forward would play next season. Terms were not immediately available.
The Los Angeles Kings, New York Islanders, Devils and a team in Russia made the biggest runs at Kovalchuk since free agency started on July 1, but he seemingly decided his chances of winning a Stanley Cup were much better in New Jersey.
The 27-year-old Russian was traded to the Devils by Atlanta in February after rejecting a 12-year, $101 million extension offered by the Thrashers.
Kovalchuk had 41 goals and 44 assists last season in earning $7.5 million, but only 10 goals and 17 assists came with the Devils.
When the deal with the Thrashers was completed, Devils president Lou Lamoriello felt his team finally had the goal scorer it needed to make a run at a fourth Cup since 1995.
It didn't work out that way. Kovalchuk had two goals in the postseason as the Devils were eliminated by the Philadelphia Flyers in five games in the opening round, their third straight exit in the first round.
The first pick overall in the 2001 NHL draft, Kovalchuk has scored 338 career goals. He has only been to the playoffs twice in eight NHL seasons, winning only one game.
Kovalchuk was acquired from the Thrashers along with defenseman Anssi Salmela for forward Niclas Bergfors, defenseman Johnny Oduya, prospect Patrice Cormier, a first-rounder and a swap of seconds.