The NHL threw down the hammer of justice on the New Jersey Devils for circumvention of the salary cap on Monday night when the club was fined $3 million and robbed of their 2011 3rd draft pick, and a 1st rounder of choice from the next four years.  Call it the cost of Kovalchuk, which is now looking like a lot more than that nifty $6,666,666 cap hit the Russian winger will take up with his new 17-year $102 million deal with the Devils.

The Devils will be required to inform the league of the 1st round choice they intend to surrender following the Stanley Cup Finals in any one of the next four seasons.  The running tally on the cost of Kovalchuk will keep climbing as the Devils now find themselves sitting nearly $3 million over the salary cap.  Early speculation has Lou Lamoriello and co. moving some defensive depth to clear some cap space, with Bryce Salvador and Colin White looking like the most logical candidates for trade.  Salvador’s cap hit for 2010-11 is $2.9 million, while White’s is at $3 million.  Both players have two years remaining on their contract, all numbers via CapGeek.

Fire & Ice’s Tom Gulitti laid out the running cost of Kovalchuk, including the trade that saw the Devils acquire him from Atlanta last season:

-$100 million in salary
-$3 million fine
-Loss of one first-round pick in next four years
-Loss of 2011 third-round draft pick
-2010 first-round pick
-RW Niclas Bergfors (2005 first-round pick)
-D Johnny Oduya
-Prospect Patrice Cormier (2008 second-round pick)
-The teams also swapped 2010 second-round picks and the Devils got back defenseman Anssi Salmela in the Feb. 4 trade with Atlanta.

Taking into consideration the impending departure of another player, or two, questions of whether or not re-signing Kovalchuk was worth it will follow the Devils around for 17 years all season long.  Lamoriello expressed his disagreement with the ruling from the NHL, but all signs point to the matter finally being settled.

“We were today advised of the ruling by the Commissioner with respect to the Kovalchuk matter. We disagree with the decision. We acted in good faith and did nothing wrong.  We will have no further comment.”

It’s worth pointing out that in all likelihood the 1st round pick will be from 2012 or later, as New Jersey would have no 2011 draft choice until the at least the 4th round due to picks surrendered its 2nd round pick to Nashville in exchange for Jason Arnott.

This summer’s soap opera appears to be over, bring on the games…