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Should the Devils surrender their 2012 first-rounder to the NHL?

Ilya Kovalchuk

New Jersey Devils’ Ilya Kovalchuk, of Russia, reacts after scoring a goal against the New York Rangers during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012, in Newark, N.J. The Devils won 4-3 in an overtime shootout. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)


The New Jersey Devils owe the NHL a first-round draft pick. This might be an ideal time for them to pay up.

Back in the summer of 2010, the Devils signed Ilya Kovalchuk to a heavily frontloaded 17-year/$102 million contract. At that point, we had already plenty of contracts that took players past their prime and added on a number of relatively cheap years at the end to keep the overall cap hit low. However, Kovalchuk’s contract was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

The NHL fought against the contract and successfully voided it. Although Kovalchuk still eventually signed with New Jersey, the NHL punished the Devils for circumventing the salary cap. The league fined the Devils $3 million, took away their third-round pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, and a first-round pick in one of draft between 2011 and 2014. The silver lining was the Devils could pick when they would surrender their pick within that timeline.

Now that the Devils have advanced to the Stanley Cup finals, this might be an ideal time to finish paying the NHL for their initial attempt to sign Kovalchuk. They will have either the 29th or 30th pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft depending on their finish in the Stanley Cup finals.

Devils GM Lou Lamoriello isn’t ready to show his hand on the subject, but if they don’t forfeit their pick this year, then they risk putting themselves in a less favorable position down the road.