February 04, 2010
All the rumors and speculation can now come to an end. Ilya Kovalchuk(notes) has finally been traded. Atlanta sent the Russian sniper along with Anssi Salmela(notes) to New Jersey in exchange for a defenseman Johnny Oduya(notes), rookie forward Niclas Bergfors(notes), currently suspended prospect Patrice Cormier(notes) and a 2010 first-round pick after days of speculation that a deal would go down. The teams will also swap second-round selections in this June's Entry Draft.
Kevin Allen of USA Today (who owned this story tonight) alerted the world earlier this evening that a deal would go down and that it would happen tonight.
As Wysh broke down the contenders this morning, he noted that New Jersey had quietly been in the mix for Kovalchuk and with Thrashers associate GM Rick Dudley in attendance at a Lowell Devils game in New Jersey last night, signs began pointing towards Devils GM Lou Lamoriello pulling the trigger on a deal. (Wysh has also deemed the Devils as "Stanley Cup champions in waiting")
The final nail in the coffin was Waddell's statement this afternoon announcing that contract talks had reached an "impasse" and Kovalchuk had rejected two offers, including a 12-year, $101 million deal. Waddell said that going any higher than $101 million would risk the future of the Atlanta roster:
"If we went beyond these offers, we would not be able to retain the young players on our roster when it came time to sign them or invest in other top-tier players needed to assemble a truly competitive team. Therefore, we are aggressively exploring all of our options as we move forward."
What did Waddell have to say about the deal after it went through?
So the Thrashers get Oduya, a veteran defenseman who didn't fit into what Jacques Lemaire was preaching behind the New Jersey bench. They also get a 22-year old Bergfors, currently in a major scoring slump in this his first full NHL season, but also who has shown plenty of promise at times. Cormier captained Team Canada at the recent World Junior Championships, but he also brought controversy upon himself with three separate elbows in the span of a month, one of which got him suspended for the rest of the season. Under Cormier's suspension, he's unable to play in any Hockey Canada affiliated league. Lamoriello had stated that the Devils would respect the QMHJL's season-long suspension of Cormier and not have him play for Lowell of the American Hockey League. It'll be interesting if Waddell does the same.
The big prize, of course, is Kovalchuk who brings a dimension to the Devils that they've never seen before. Since the lockout, only Alex Ovechkin(notes) has scored more goals in the NHL than Kovalchuk. With Martin Brodeur(notes) in goal, the NHL's best defense and a 1-2 scoring punch of Zach Parise(notes) and now Kovalchuk, the New Jersey Devils are your new Stanley Cup favorites. The time frame for the Devils to win is now and this move signifies that Lamoriello is going all in to bring a fourth Stanley Cup to New Jersey.
Like with the Marian Hossa(notes)-to-Pittsburgh trade from 2008, the package Atlanta received for Kovalchuk isn't one that will make Thrashers fans feel any better about trading away the face of their franchise. Once again, Atlanta sees a star player dealt away and are promised that the "assets" in return will help build for the future. As Zach Bogosian(notes), Evander Kane(notes) and Ondrej Pavelec(notes) continue to develop, Thrashers fans are left wondering when their time will be "now" instead of helping other NHL teams reach that point.