NHL reverses part of penalty against Devils for Ilya Kovalchuk contract

Bruce Bennett

The NHL will allow the Devils to pick in the first round this season, awarding them the 30th selection in the draft. SB Nation's GIF Tournament V

The NHL is cutting New Jersey Devils a break for attempting to circumvent the salary cap with their first contract to Ilya Kovalchuk four years ago by returning a draft pick to the club.

When the Devils initially signed Kovalchuk to a front-loaded 17-year, $102 million contract, the NHL ruled that it was a violation of the league's collective bargaining agreement and hammered the team with a hefty fine ($3 million), a loss of draft picks, and rejected the contract, making the team work out a new deal that was eventually worth $100 million over 15 years.

As part of the punishment the Devils were supposed to forfeit the first-round draft pick of their choice over the ensuing four years. The Devils, having yet to forfeit the first-round pick over the previous three years, were going to have to lose their pick in this summer's draft to complete the penalty.

Until the NHL stepped in and said that won't be necessary.

The NHL is going to give the Devils the 30th overall pick in the draft, regardless of where they finish, and is forgiving $1.5 million of the initial fine, according to TSN's Darren Dreger.

Of course they aren't.

Especially since teams that signed players to similar contracts are going to get hammered in the future with cap recapture penalties -- like Vancouver with Roberto Luongo -- for signing players to similar long-term, front-loaded contracts with the intention of lowering the yearly salary cap hit. And that's to say nothing of the teams that didn't sign any contracts but will still have to deal with the possibility of dealing with the recapture penalties that were put into the new CBA because of contracts like Kovalchuk's (and Luongo's, and Marian Hossa, etc.).

After signing the 15-year contract, Kovalchuk played three seasons with the Devils before retiring from the NHL after the 2012-13 season so he could continue his career in the KHL.

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