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Devils' Kovalchuk ready after contract controversy @NHL

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - New Jersey left wing Ilya Kovalchuk said Friday that the NHL's punishment of the Devils for his original, rejected contract was unfair.

At the same time, he separated himself from the issue.

"It's always bad when your team is penalized," said Kovalchuk, who took physicals along with the rest of his teammates at the Prudential Center in preparation for Saturday's opening session of training camp. "But that's the relationship between the general manager and the league.

"What are you going to do?"

When asked if the NHL's punishment of a $3 million fine, the loss of next year's third-round draft pick, and the loss of a first-round pick in one of the next four years was fair, Kovalchuk replied, "No, but that's reality."

Kovalchuk's original 17-year, $102 million deal was rejected by the league on July 19 because the NHL ruled that it circumvented the salary cap. An arbitrator upheld the ruling, after which the Devils signed the Russian-born goal scorer to a 15-year, $100 million deal.

"I gave them a two-year discount," Kovalchuk said, jokingly.

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