Back in 2010, Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk attempted to sign a 17-year, $102 million contract with the New Jersey Devils, which would have given him the longest contract in NHL history. The NHL rejected the contract because they said that it circumvented the salary cap that the league had in place. But a short time later, Kovalchuk signed an equally impressive 15-year, $100 million deal. He was set for life.

But as it turns out, Kovalchuk won't actually get to enjoy that contract. That's because earlier today, after about a year of soul searching, Kovalchuk decided to retire from the NHL and return to his native Russia. That's right—he's walking away from a contract that still has 12 years and $77 million left on it. The move was so surprising that The Record Devils beat writer Tom Gulitti actually called New Jersey to confirm that Kovalchuk's retirement wasn't a hoax:

The Devils confirmed it. Kovalchuk also released a statement.

"This decision was something I have thought about for a long time going back to the lockout and spending the year in Russia," he said. "Though I decided to return this past season, [Devils general manager] Lou [Lamoriello] was aware of my desire to go back home and have my family here 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."

Is that really the most difficult thing, though? What about the $77 million? We commend the guy for doing what he wants to do with his life. We just hope he doesn't regret it one day.

RELATED: The 10 Most Shocking Retirements in Sports History

[via Tom Gulitti]