Devils' punishment not unprecedented

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:58 AM ET

NEW YORK -- Having scurried out of the conference room where the NHL's board of governors meeting had just completed Tuesday, embattled New Jersey Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello was approximately three steps from the hotel escalator, his escape almost complete.

Almost. But not quite.

"Hey Lou," a columnist from the QMI Agency called out. "Got a second?"

Recognizing a familiar face, Lamoriello broke into a huge smile, hardly the reaction you would expect from a man whose team had just been severely punished by the league less than 24 hours earlier.

"I can't talk," he said wryly. "You know why."

And with that, he disappeared into the bowels of the bustling Westin Times Square, forced to deal with a $3-million US fine and the forfeiting of a 2011 third-round draft pick and a first-round selection in one of the next four drafts.

All because arbitrator Richard Bloch recently ruled the $102-million, 17-year deal given by the Devils to forward Ilya Kovalchuk was an attempt to get around the salary cap.

Some believed that Lamoriello might attempt to appeal the decision at the meeting Tuesday. Not so.

"My understanding is the matter is closed both from the league's standpoint and the Devils' standpoint," commissioner Gary Bettman said. "There's not going to be an appeal."

The Devils claim they did not purposely attempt to manipulate the system. No matter.

"There's not a requirement to find intent," Bettman said. "I'm not suggesting for a minute that the Devils acted in bad faith or thought that they were trying to do something wrong, but the fact of the matter is, once there's a finding of circumvention, it's got to be addressed.

"The arbitrator found that there was a circumvention in this particular case and I've been very clear to the board that in the event that there's a finding of circumvention it has to be punished," Bettman added. "It's that simple."

Bettman was asked if the harsh measures taken on the Devils served as a warning to the other teams.

"I've been very clear all along that in the event of a circumvention, in particular in a case where you have an independent system arbitrator finding a circumvention, it has to be punished," Bettman said.

"It's not different than when Toronto was punished on (Jonas) Frogren, which was a violation as well, although some would contend at the time that it was not that big of a deal. The cap has to be respected."

The Leafs, of course, were fined $500,000 US and stripped of a 2009 fourth-round pick for signing Frogren to more than the limit allowed on entry-level contracts. Like the Kovalchuk deal, that pact also was rejected by the league.

"I think clubs have way too much to say about what happens to other clubs," Leafs general manager Brian Burke said. "If you notice, when we were reprimanded by the league and fined by the league for the Frogren signing, I thought teams were very judicious about not piling on, so we're certainly not going to pile on here.

"The league has made a decision, we support the league and we'll move on. People know my view on these type of contracts, so we'll leave it at that."

Burke, who was coached by Lamoriello during his playing days at Providence College, testified against the Kovalchuk deal during Bloch's investigation.

Rule Tweak

The NHL board of governors altered the tie-breaking system in the overall standings Tuesday, with shootout wins no longer part of the equation.

In past years, the first tiebreaker for teams deadlocked with the same number of points would be total number of wins -- in other words, regulation-time wins plus overtime wins plus shootout wins.

Now, under the new guidelines, the first tiebreaker will be total wins minus shootout wins. Teams will, of course, continue to receive two points in the standings for shootout victories.

Desert Dogs

Bettman added that a couple of interested parties had contacted the city of Glendale regarding the Phoenix Coyotes but would not elaborate any further.

Where have we heard that before?


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