The NHL has just announced that they will be reducing the Devils penalty from the Ilya Kovalchuk contract fiasco in the summer of 2010. The Devils will be getting their first round pick back, albeit at the 30th spot, and the league has also forgiven $1.5 million of the original $3 million fine handed down. Darren Dreger of TSN first broke the story on the NHL's decision:
Hearing the NHL has reversed part of its penalty against the Devils for cap circumvention (Kovalchuk contract)....— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) March 6, 2014
NHL will award Devils with the 30th pick in the Draft instead of the 1st round pick as usually determined. Also forgiving $1.5 mil of fine.— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) March 6, 2014
Some of the other teams in the league are understandably upset at the reversal, but my response as a Devils fan is pretty much that they can go suck lemons. The original penalty, which was $3 million, a 2011 third-round pick, and one of the Devils' firsts from 2011-14, was outlandish and excessive in the first place and this reduction feels like at least some measure of justice now (even if it is completely out of the blue and unexpected). The Devils still ended up losing a third, $1.5 million, and likely 10-20 spots of draft position this year, but that feels a little closer to fair than the original punishment for something that wasn't expressly forbidden.
Another layer of this is Lou Lamoriello's 2012 decision to hang on to the 29th pick. He has been criticized almost universally for that decision, but perhaps his plan all along was to try to put as much distance as possible from the punishment before asking for leniency. Hard to say whether Kovalchuk bolting for the KHL had an impact on the decision, though the NHL's offcial statement kind of sounds that way (though changes to the CBA could also be an explanation). If this was his plan all along, then he is again operating on a higher level than the rest of us.
More thoughts on this possibly coming later. Until then, In Lou We Trust, I suppose.