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“You get that hunger again pumping through your blood,” said Duncan Keith, last season’s Norris Trophy winner as the NHL’s top defenseman. “We want to win every year. That’s the goal in our organization. Detroit would be the best example. Over the last 10 years, they’ve been a solid team and you could make a legitimate case that they would be Cup contenders every year. That’s what we want to be like. We don’t want to be a one-year team and that’s it.”

It’s not just the Blackhawks who found themselves in a salary-cap nightmare. Just look at the New Jersey Devils, who spent a good chunk of the summer trying to keep star forward Ilya Kovalchuk.

After a third straight first-round playoff exit, the Devils couldn’t afford to let Kovalchuk get away in free agency. New Jersey traded several pieces to Atlanta to pry him away midseason and wanted him to stay. Lengthy negotiations produced a landmark 17-year, $102 million deal that right away revealed salary cap relief.

The NHL noticed that, too, and rejected the contract that would’ve paid Kovalchuk only $550,000 in each of the final six years _ saying the deal was constructed to circumvent the salary cap. The Devils and Kovalchuk’s camp reworked it and came out with a legal 15-year contract worth $100 million.

Not only did it leave the Devils $3 million over the cap for the season, and with hard decisions to make, New Jersey was then stripped of a third-round draft pick this year and a first-rounder in one of the next four seasons, and was fined $3 million by the NHL.

The only consolation was that the fine won’t be charged against the cap.

“I think it’s a little harsh,” said Devils star forward Zach Parise, whose contract is up after this season. “When you get smacked with a penalty and you lose draft picks, you lose a first-round pick, that’s big.

New Jersey temporarily got under the cap before Wednesday’s deadline by placing defenseman Bryce Salvador (concussion) on long-term injured reserve and designating defenseman Anssi Salmela (knee) as an injured, non-roster player.

The Devils are carrying only 20 players on the roster that allows for 23, and will need to make more decisions down the road. Familiar names such as captain Jamie Langenbrunner, Dainius Zubrus, Colin White, and Travis Zajac, could be on the move because of their contracts.

“It’s a tough situation,” Zajac said. “You’ve got friends on the team that could get traded. It’s a business like anything else, and it’s going to happen.

“I can’t worry about that.”