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Ilya Kovalchuk signs with SKA St. Petersburg of KHL, plans NHL return

Ilya Kovalchuk After retiring from the NHL, Ilya Kovalchuk signed a contract with SKA St. Petersburg. (Mike Stobe/NHL/Getty Images)

By Allan Muir

It's official: Ilya Kovalchuk has signed with SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL.

The league confirmed the deal is for four years and that Kovalchuk will wear No. 17 with the club.

No financial terms were disclosed, but unconfirmed reports suggest he could make as much as $15 million per season.

Not that he made the move for the money, of course.

Last week, Kovalchuk walked away from the $77 million left on his 15-year contract with the New Jersey Devils.

Today, in Sovietsky Sport, SKA vice-president Roman Rotenberg said that money was not what drove Kovalchuk to make the move. "I wouldn’t want to go into the financial details. But I will repeat one thing: Ilya did not do it for the money, but for the sake of Russia," he said.

“This is a serious thing," Rotenberg continued. "A player with superstar status, who has a record contract came up and said ‘You know, I want to go home. To play in Russia, to live closer to my family. To be closer to the people and my fans.’ Ilya Kovalchuk is a true hero in this situation. A hero of Russia, I think. The man didn't want to disappoint anyone. He is a true patriot. What other words can there be?

On Sunday, Kovalchuk's sister told a Russian publication that the instability of the ownership situation in New Jersey and the team's poor chances of competing for a Stanley Cup influenced his decision to return home. She also hinted that NHL fans haven't seen the last of her brother.

"Naturally, he plans to return to America and perform in the NHL. But the next [four] years he will play in Russia," Arina Kovalchuk said.

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