A chance to win a Stanley Cup prompted prized free agent Ilya Kovalchuk to sign a blockbuster 17-year, $102-million contract to remain with the New Jersey Devils, the Russian winger said Tuesday.
"From the playoffs last season, there is unfinished business," the high scoring Kovalchuk told a news conference at the Devils' arena in Newark.
"That was the biggest reason why I decided (to stay)."
The Devils won the Atlantic Division with the high-scoring Kovalchuk, but were stunned by Stanley Cup finalist Philadelphia in the first round of the postseason.
Kovalchuk had been rumoured to be going to the Los Angeles Kings, but the lure of trying to add to the Devils' three Stanley Cups since 1995 was too much, he said.
The deal will keep him under contract through the 2026-27 season.
He will earn $6-million annually for the next two years and $11.5-million per year for the following five seasons. The numbers scale back to $550,000 annually for the 2022-23 through 2026-27 campaigns.
"I have committed the rest of my career, 17 years, my number, to this team," said Kovalchuk, who has scored at least 40 goals in each of the past six seasons.
He will be 44 when the contract expires.
"Hopefully, I will keep myself in shape to still be able to play," he told reporters.
He said he made the decision to re-sign on July 17, which was the anniversary of his father's death.
"Seventeen has always been a lucky number for me," Kovalchuk said.
One of the highest scoring forwards in the game, he had 27 points in 27 games last season for New Jersey after a midseason trade from the Atlanta Thrashers. He wrapped up the season with 41 goals and 85 points.
"He's obviously a great player and somebody that will get better with a little time here," Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner told reporters.
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