Trade Center: NHL Devils Acquire Kovalchuk
The Deal: The New Jersey Devils acquire LW Ilya Kovalchuk and D Anssi Salmela for RW Niclas Bergfors, D Johnny Oduya, Forward Patrice Cormier, and a 1st round draft pick.
Why it makes sense for the Thrashers: Atlanta was between a rock and a hard place here and made the best deal possible. Kovalchuk was going to be the top free agent on the market this upcoming season and was going to leave the Thrashers. While its hard for Atlanta to give up their superstar and most marketable player, they couldn’t just let him walk away in free agency for nothing. Bergfors is only 22 and has shown some promise this season. He may never be a star winger but could be a solid top-two line starter. Oduya is a pretty good defensiveman, and at 28 still has his best hockey in front of him. Cormier was one of the Devils top prospects, and should be the key to this deal for the Thrashers if he develops the way they hope. The deal could even be better for Atlanta if they can use the money they save from Kovalchuk to bring in a couple of good free agents in the offseason.
Why it makes sense for the Devils: The New Jersey Devils are 2nd in the Eastern Conference right now, despite the fact that they rank 5th worst in the league in goals scored. Kovalchuk gives them the elite scorer they need to win the Stanley Cup this year. The acquisition of Kovalchuk makes the Devils a legitimate contender to the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington Capitals. Before acquiring Kovalchuk no one wanted to play the Devils for one game due to the presence of Martin Brodeur in net, but didn’t mind a playoff series as much because the Devils didn’t have the offense to balance out Brodeur. The thought being that you could outlast Brodeur over the length of the series. But now with a scoring threat, the Devils are a team that’s dangerous in a playoff series. While the Devils gave up some young talent to acquire Kovalchuk, they didn’t give up anything major that will come back to haunt them.
Winner: Both sides filled their biggest needs with this deal; for the Devils a top notch scorer, and for the Thrashers acquiring some NHL and future talent for their rental player. Even if the Devils come up short this postseason I think this will be a good deal for them, by exciting the fan base and giving them a chance to win it all.