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With contract mess behind him, Kovalchuk eager to hit the ice

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TSN.ca Staff
9/23/2010 5:38:15 PM
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New Jersey Devils star forward Ilya Kovalchuk says he's happy to move on from the prolonged contract issues that plagued him this summer and is ready to start focusing on playing hockey again.

"It feels good," Kovalchuk said on Wednesday. "Finally everything is behind us and now I just think about hockey, and I can talk to you guys about hockey, nothing about anything else."

Kovalchuk was the centre of a firestorm this off-season after signing a massive 17-year, $102 million contract, only to see the NHL reject it because the league saw the deal as purposefully circumventing the salary cap.

The NHLPA filed a grievance, but an arbitrator ruled in favour of the league and voided the contract, which made Kovalchuk a free agent.

On September 4, the Devils submitted a deal and this time the league approved. The re-worked contract called for Kovalchuk to collect $100 million over 15 years.

Even though things were settled up, it didn't mean the Devils' original moves went without punishment from the league; the NHL fined the Devils $3 million and two draft picks for their actions.

With that mess aside, Kovalchuk is excited to start playing on his new line, where the 27-year-old Russian sniper will be joining Zach Parise and Travis Zajac.

"We're getting better and better every day, we're starting to understand each other a little more and I think we've got a little more chemistry," said Kovalchuk. "It's so easy to play with a great player. We just have to be ourselves, work hard as a unit and I think we're going to be successful."

Parise said there has definitely been an adjustment period.

"At first I guess it can be kind of - not intimidating, but a little different," said Parise. "But I think with practice in the last few days, most importantly, Travis and I have to make sure that we keep doing what works for him and I, and what's made us successful and be smart and inserting (Kovalchuk) on that line it should make a pretty good line."

Zajac said he was looking forward to being on a line with such skilled offensive powers.

"It's pretty exciting to play with two of the best players in the league," Zajac said. "It makes my job easy and a lot of fun."

Kovalchuk was traded to the Devils in February of this year after eight seasons with the Atlanta Thrashers. In 621 career NHL games, Kovalchuk has 338 goals and 304 assists.

Ilya Kovalchuk (Photo: Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
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