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Devils' Kovalchuk penalty reduced, get first-round pick back

By Brian Stubits | CBSSports.com

Lou Lamoriello has reason to smile. (Getty Images)
Lou Lamoriello has reason to smile. (Getty Images)

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Lou Lamoriello has done it again, he has worked his magic to get the Devils out of a bind.

The penalties that the New Jersey Devils were dealt years ago when they signed Ilya Kovalchuk to what was deemed a cap-circumventing contract have been reduced. Originally New Jersey was fined $3 million, lost a third-round draft pick in 2011 and was going to lose a first-rounder at some time in the next four years.

After electing to keep their pick for the first three years, this was going to be the year the Devils gave up their first-rounder. But the Devils will still pick in the first round. With Kovalchuk bolting for the KHL, the league had a change of heart.

The sanctions originally imposed on the Club included a significant fine, the forfeiture of the Club's third-round draft selection in 2011 (which was forfeited) and the forfeiture of a first-round draft selection which has been deferred by the Club until this year in accordance with the terms of the original penalty. As a result, as it relates to the portion of the discipline relating to the first-round draft pick, the Devils stand to forfeit it entirely in the upcoming 2014 NHL Draft. The Devils recently applied to the League for reconsideration and relief from a portion of the original penalty, citing primarily changes in circumstances which, in the Club's view, changed the appropriateness of the sanctions initially imposed. After due and thorough consideration, the League has decided that a modification of the original circumvention penalty associated with the Kovalchuk contract is warranted and, accordingly, has amended the sanctions as follows:

The New Jersey Devils will now be entitled to the 30th selection overall in the 2014 NHL Draft (the last pick in the first round), regardless of the Devils' final standing following the 2013/14 season.

The Club will not be permitted to trade or transfer its right to the 30th overall selection in the 2014 NHL Draft.

The Club's fine has been partially reduced.

Well, well, well, ain't that a break. That fine was initially $3 million but Darren Dreger says the Devils are getting half of that back.

You can imagine how the other teams around the league feel.

You could argue the initial penalty on the Devils was ridiculous enough given what the rules stated and the similar contracts around the league. But they got hit and now the NHL backtracks on the most punitive part. A questionable penalty in the first place gets arbitrarily overruled now. Bad begets bad in this case.

No wonder other GMs aren't happy. The Devils got out from under Kovalchuk's long contract and now are getting off the hook for the most part for signing it in the first place. And it's going to knock everybody know a peg in the draft order but that's minor compared to the NHL simply backing off a stiff punishment.

Though the Devils aren't getting a full reinstatement of their first-round pick here -- they'll pick 30th instead of what's looking like would be a pick somewhere around 14 -- it's certainly one early pick more than they had before. And that they weren't supposed to have.

Not that this comes completely out of the blue, mind you. Many expected this would happen, especially when Kovalchuk left the NHL. But the conspiracy theories are running even more wild given what the Devils elected to do in the 2012 draft. That year the Devils made it to the Stanley Cup Final and as a result picked 29th. Surely they wouldn't have a better time to forfeit a first-rounder and minimize the value lost. Instead they kept the pick in a move that made little to no sense ... until now.

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