Dealing with the Devils: NHL reverses Kovalchuk punishment

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The NHL is set to reverse the punishment handed to New Jersey for the Ilya Kovalchuk cap circumvention incident, according to TSN’s Darren Dreger:

In September of 2010, the NHL fined the Devils $3 million and took away their third-round pick at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft — as well as a first-round draft choice in one of the next four NHL Entry Drafts.

The punishment was levied after an independent arbitrator ruled Kovalchuk’s 17-year, $102 million deal attempted to circumvent the league’s salary cap (the deal was heavily front-loaded, with Kovalchuk earning $95 million over the first 10 years.)

This summer, Kovalchuk surprised the hockey world by retiring from the NHL with 12 years and $77 million remaining on his deal with the Devils. As a result, New Jersey will have to pay a cap restructure penalty of about $300,000 until 2024-25 — when the contract was set to expire.

Regarding this year’s first-round pick…

New Jersey was set to forfeit its selection at the ’14 NHL Entry Draft after keeping its firsts in ’11, ’12 and ’13. It now looks as though the Devils will select 30th overall regardless of how they finish this year.

There will likely be more to follow on this story, most notably the league’s explanation for its decision. It’s worth noting that the Kovalchuk deal was signed under the Jeff Vanderbeek regime, and Vanderbeek — who had a tumultuous time as Devils owner — has since been replaced by Philadelphia 76ers owner Josh Harris.

UPDATE

The NHL has released the following statement…

The Devils recently applied to the League for reconsideration and relief from a portion of the original penalty, citing primarily changes in circumstances which, in the Club’s view, changed the appropriateness of the sanctions initially imposed.

After due and thorough consideration, the League has decided that a modification of the original circumvention penalty associated with the Kovalchuk contract is warranted.

The NHL also noted the Devils aren’t allowed to trade or transfer their right to the 30th overall selection at the draft.

Lightning give Vasilevskiy the hook after very rare Jurco goal

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By just about any measure, Monday’s been lousy to Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.

He was pulled with a few minutes remaining in the first period after Chicago Blackhawks built a 3-1 lead, scoring those three goals on just eight shots on net.

You could summarize Vasilevskiy’s awful start by those numbers, or by how rare the 3-1 goal was for the scorer.

Tomas Jurco failed to score a goal or an assist in 16 games with the Red Wings, then went pointless in nine more games with Chicago before finally scoring his first goal of the season on Monday.

Now, Jon Cooper didn’t pull Vasilevskiy because Jurco scored that tally. Still, it rubs a little extra salt in his wounds all things considered.

Coach Q thinks Anisimov will be back by playoffs for Blackhawks

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The bad news is that Artem Anisimov seems likely to miss all – or at least most – of the regular season for the Chicago Blackhawks with his lower-body injury.

The good? Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville believes that Anisimov will be ready once the playoffs swing into motion, as the Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus reports.

Anisimov was hurt when he got tangled up with Canadiens forward Alex Radulov on March 14:

The Blackhawks have been filling Anisimov’s typical spot alongside Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin with Ryan Hartman and Nick Schmaltz lately. There have been flashes of brilliance with Schmaltz, but Chicago would probably feel most confident with Anisimov back in his familiar place.

Chicago’s Central lead is pretty secure over the Minnesota Wild at the moment, which likely reduces motivation to rush Anisimov back before he’s truly ready. The Blackhawks close out their regular season on April 8, so there’s still time for him to heal up.

Ducks demote Enroth, so Gibson’s close to a return

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The Anaheim Ducks are flying high – er, waddling with some swagger? – right now thanks to Jonathan Bernier‘s somewhat shocking turnaround, but the pending return of John Gibson is promising.

(Especially since the Ducks will likely want him to shake off some rust before the playoffs begin.)

While it’s not clear if he’s exactly 100 percent healthy just yet, the Ducks sending Jhonas Enroth back to the AHL is a strong sign that Gibson is close.

Enroth actually never got a shot to start for the Ducks, as his last NHL appearance came on Nov. 30, closing off his ill-fated run with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Considering that Enroth was once a fairly hot commodity as at least a promising backup, it will be interesting to see how his 2017-18 season pans out. Will he get more or less of a chance than he received this season?

Bernier, meanwhile, is richly rewarding the Ducks for sticking with him.

He’s provided them with a Vezina-caliber March: 9-1-1, 1.71 GAA and .943 save percentage with one shutout. You almost wonder if there’s at least some potential for a goalie controversy if Gibson stumbles whenever he gets back into action … but hey, having two good goalies to choose from is better than none.

(Which was the scenario that must have scared the Ducks when Gibson got hurt in the first place.)

WATCH LIVE: Chicago Blackhawks at Tampa Bay Lightning

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The Tampa Bay Lightning almost certainly haven’t faced the Chicago Blackhawks in a game this important since the two teams were vying for a Stanley Cup.

While the Blackhawks have already punched their ticket to the postseason and are merely trying to pad their lead in the Central Division, the Bolts are fighting for their playoff lives. At the moment, they rank three points behind the Boston Bruins for the final spot in the East. With a game in hand, they can make up a lot of ground tonight.

With all of that in mind, it should be an entertaining contest. You can check it out on NBCSN, watch online or via the NBC Sports App.

Click here for the livestream.