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Kovalchuk signs with New Jersey Devils

After weeks of negotiating and a melodramatic roller-coaster ride that traveled coast-to-coast, Ilya Kovalchuk will remain with the New Jersey Devils.

Kovy was this summer’s hottest NHL unrestricted free agent after tallying 40 or more goals over the last six seasons, most of those with the Atlanta Thrashers. There was heavy speculation that Kovalchuk would be signing with the L.A. Kings with some of that chatter still going on yesterday.

News first broke that Kovy would be signing when Kovy’s agent, Jay Grossman Tweeted on his Twitter account that an announcement and decision was definitely coming today. Shortly after that message, the Devils announced they had signed the star left winger.

“Ilya is excited to be continuing his career with New Jersey and knows first-hand the team’s dedication and commitment to winning,” Grossman said.

“We all know that, even looking at him on another team, that he’s an exceptional talent,” said Devils coach John MacLean. “As I’ve stated before, I have not heard from anybody throughout the organization a bad word about him. He’s a tremendous teammate and addition. He’ll have no issues playing for the team. He signed here for a reason — to try to win a championship. This organization has a good history of that, so you know he wants to be part of the team. That’s what I’m excited about.”

After skating in Atlanta and only experiencing the playoffs one time throughout his entire career and playing in a series where his team was swept 4 games to 0 by the New York Rangers, Kovy will be lacing them up for an organization with a strong recent winning history.

Kovalchuk had 27 points in 27 games wearing a Devils jersey last year and totaled 41 goals and 85 points for the season. In the trade for the Russian skater, the Devils sent solid rookie forward, Niclas Bergfors and defenseman Johnny Oduya as well as a few other pieces. For New Jersey to come up empty-handed would have looked like a real boneheaded move so they stayed in the mix throught the past several weeks before finally landing the player.

No details of the contract were announced, but you have to assume the Devils will have to shuffle some players to stay under their $59.4 million salary cap before the start of the season.

NOTE: While playing with the Thrashers, the former No. 1 overall pick in the NHL Draft scored 328 goals and added 287 assists for 615 points in 594 games.

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