Devils strangely opt to keep this year’s first rounder

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As a punishment for Ilya Kovalchuk’s first, failed “lifetime” contract, the NHL fined the New Jersey Devils and required GM Lou Lamoriello to give up a first rounder within four years.* It was reasonable for the Devils to keep their 2011 pick since they didn’t make the playoffs, yet the hockey world raised its collective eyebrows when Tom Gulitti pointed out that they won’t give up their 2012 pick either.

Now they’re left with a simple choice: give it up in 2013 or 2014.

That might not sound like a big deal, but chew on this: the Devils will make the second-lowest pick (29th out of 30) this year because they made it to the Stanley Cup finals. On face value, this is an extremely strange decision. Technically speaking, the Devils would need to win the Stanley Cup in 2013 or 2014 to give up a “weaker” pick.

On the other hand, the Devils might just view the 2012 NHL Draft has an especially deep one. Could pick No. 29 in 2012 be better than even a mid-range one in 2013 or 2014?

Perhaps that’s the argument Lamoriello would make. Then again, maybe he’s just smoldering over that Steve Bernier call and Jarret Stoll non-call. (The Kings PR staff would joke that he was just slow to get the e-mail out, though.)

What do you think about this seemingly odd choice?

* They also gave up a third-round pick in 2011 and paid a $3 million fine. That’s called making an example of someone, folks.