Devils fined $3 million, lose two draft picks as NHL penalizes club for first Ko

The NHL rocked the Devils Monday by imposing severe punishment for cir*****venting the salary cap with the club’s initial attempt to sign Ilya Kovalchuk.

Commissioner Gary Bettman announced that the Devils have been fined $3 million and will forfeit two draft picks, including the team’s first-round draft selection in one of the next four years. The Devils will also lose their third-round pick in 2011.

The Devils will choose which first-rounder they will lose and must notify the NHL after the Stanley Cup playoffs in whatever draft year they choose to give up their pick.

The penalties are punishment for the 17-year, $102 million contract signed by Kovalchuk on July 19 despite a warning from the league that the deal would be rejected. Arbitrator Richard I. Bloch upheld the league’s rejection in an Aug. 9 ruling after the NHL Players’ Association had filed a grievance on the Russian’s behalf.

Kovalchuk signed to a 15-year, $100 million contract on Aug. 27.

Lamoriello did not return calls, but issued this statement: “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.”