That sound you heard on Monday afternoon was bodies falling into line when the NHL imposed sanctions on the New Jersey Devils for the cap-circumventing nature of the 17-year, $102 million contract that was first given to free agent forward
New Jersey might have been hoping for a slap on the wrist. What they got was a two-hander to the back of the head.
And while the Devils are no doubt still woozy from the blow, they have to be feeling lucky that it wasn't worse.
That $3 million fine? Hardly chump change for a team that struggles to fill seats even at the shiny new Prudential Center. Plus, it was the maximum sanction the league could impose under an agreement forged by the NHL and NHLPA during the negotiations that followed the league's rejection of the first deal.
But at least the fine won't count against the cap. It could have under the CBA, but the agreement between the league and the players took that particular paddle out of the NHL's hands. For a team already looking to shed salary, that was a considerable break.
And while one of those picks will be a first-rounder (the other is a 2011 third-rounder), the Devils actually caught a bit of a break there, too. They get to choose from any of the next four years the draft during which they'll sit on their hands. And they don't have to inform the league of their decision until the day after the final Stanley Cup playoff game.
That small kindness gives GM
But make no mistake. This penalty makes life miserable for the Devils and puts considerable pressure on Kovalchuk to put on a cape and fly to work. Add that fine to the re-worked deal the league ultimately blessed, along with the players (
No doubt Kovalchuk is an elite scorer, a highlight-generating puck wizard who will be become the face of the franchise once
The Devils are allowed to appeal the decision at today's Board of Governor's meeting, but they'll be hard-pressed to find much support. It's tough to imagine many other clubs wanting to draw attention to themselves -- certainly not teams like the Flyers, Bruins, Red Wings and Canucks who got away, barely, with similarly structured deals. So the Devils will just have to lick their wounds and limp away.
And hope against hope that somehow Kovalchuk will turn out to be worth all of this hell.