July 12, 2010 at 07:45 PM EDT

Image Credit: Eric Leibowitz/CBS; Bob Charlotte/PR PhotosAnother long-running CBS procedural has been rocked by a high-profile departure: Melina Kanakaredes is leaving CSI: NY. Sela Ward, meanwhile, is in talks to replace her.

“We hoped Melina would return to CSI: NY for another season, but we respect her decision to move on,” said CBS (network and studio) in a statement. “Her amazing talent and invaluable contribution to the success of the series are greatly appreciated and will not be forgotten. She will forever remain a friend to the network and studio and we wish her the very best.”

In her own statement, Kanakaredes said, “I made some amazing and lifelong friendships during my six seasons on CSI: NY, and I will treasure them forever.”

CBS declined further comment, but a source tells me that Kanakaredes was approached with a new deal but she opted to move on. I’m told her last episode has already aired. Ward, meanwhile, is the odds-on favorite to fill the show’s leading-lady void.

This marks the fourth onscreen shake-up at a CBS drama in the past month. As previously reported, A.J. Cook, Liz Vassey, and Eddie Cibrian have been released from their roles on Criminal Minds, CSI, and CSI: Miami respectively (although Cook will return briefly this fall to give fans closure).

Thoughts? Will you still love NY (which moves to Fridays at 9 pm this fall) without Stella? Sound off below!

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