So, the NHL decided to give the Devils their 1st rounder back. I'm guessing the fact that Kovalchuk ditched them for the KHL is the "change in circumstances" referenced in the article. I suppose losing your only real scoring threat is punishment enough for breaking the "spirit" of the rules. I always thought they got hit too hard anyway; seemed to me other teams were doing exactly the same thing. That being said, changing the ruling years later seems a bit strange to me.
I thought the penalty was ridiculous in the first place. You set up rules and enforce them. If the terms of the contract violate those rules, you void/don't accept it and tell the team and player to negotiate another one.
I'm perfectly ok with the penalty being reduced. Not like that was the only garbage deal in the league. If the league world have stepped in when teams like the red wings popularized this kind of deal, it would have saved itself the drama.