“Loophole Lou” strikes again! Back in July, Ilya Kovalchuk announced his retirement from the NHL in order to go play in Russia. It was a big long term win for the Devils, as it freed them from a contract many believed Devils GM Lou Lamoriello didn’t want to sign in the first place. At that time, the burden of the lengthy contract was gone, but the punishment for the Devils “cap circumvention” remained.
New Jerseys was fined $3 million, and had to forfeit a 3rd round pick in 2011, as well as their first round pick within the next 4 years. Inexplicably, Lamoriello decided to keep the Devils pick each year, even when they made the Stanley Cup Final and had the 29th pick overall in the 2012 draft. Many questioned why the Devils wouldn’t forfeit that pick, while those familiar with the workings of Lamoriello figured the old man had to have one more trick up his sleeve.
Darren Dreger confirmed today that the NHL has decided to loosen the punishment on the Devils:
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
So instead of completely forfeiting their pick, New Jersey will instead forfeit their draft slot and get the final pick of the first round. They will also save a cool $1.5 million in fines.
Needless to say, the reaction of the other NHL teams has not been favorable; despite a handful of teams getting away with signing similar contracts around the same time as the Kovalchuk deal.
I always felt the punishment was somewhat unfair. The Devils first offering to Kovalchuk was the most extreme case of burying salary in the later years, but other teams were doing similar deals and not being punished. Since the Kovalchuk deal, the NHL has worked to fix the loophole the Devils took advantage of. What the Devils did was wrong, but they were being punished for being the last straw in a string of loophole contracts.
This amended punishment seems much more fair, as it still punishes New Jersey, but does not cripple the franchise at the draft.
Tags: New Jersey Devils