Kovalchuk welcomes challenge of being Devils’ $100 million villain

Ilya Kovalchuk has always been something of a target for the Rangers, notably Sean Avery.

But will the Devils winger’s 15-year, $100 million contract and repercussions with the league now make him more of a target in road arenas for boo birds and fans holding signs? The Devils visit Madison Square Garden Thursday night for a preseason game.

“I can’t get into everybody’s head, but I don’t think I did anything criminal,” Kovalchuk told The Star-Ledger. “I think it was more of a battle between the NHL and NHLPA than between me and the NHL.”

The league, of course, rejected Kovalchuk’s initial 17-year, $102 million contract. The NHL also fined the Devils $3 million and stripped them of two draft picks– their third-round selection in 2011 and a first-round at some point in the next four years.

In agreeing to allow the reworked contract, the NHL imposed future restrictions on long-term deals by negotiating with the union on an amendment to the CBA.

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