It's finally over and we can move on with our lives.
That's right, Ilya Kovalchuk has been dealt to the New Jersey Devils with Anssi Salmela for Johnny Oduya, Niclas Bergfors, Patrice Cormier, and the Devils' 1st round pick. When you look at what was given up by the Devils, you can just think about how Devils' GM Lou Lamoriello basically stole this deal from Atlanta.
Any team who got Kovalchuk was going to win the deal, it's hard to beat something like that. But for Sweet Lou to give up what can be called very little (especially when you look at the speculation being tossed around), it's almost a shame the Thrashers had to go down like that. Sure, they get a good defenseman like Oduya to help guys like Zach Bogosian and Tobias Enstrom out in the long run, but what does it mean for the future of the franchise as a whole?? I'll touch on that later.
The posturing is something that was epic in the past 48 hours, but the Thrashers ripped it out today-- saying that Kovalchuk turned down two offers-- one of seven years at $70M and another at 12 years and $101M, which is almost insane to turn down. I mean, Kovalchuk is one day older than me and to be turning down that money when I won't see anything close to that makes me shake my head. Then, yesterday-- Atlanta's GM Don Waddell saying how he told Kovalchuk was going to be move, which was a signal to the teams on the fence to make a final move or move along. When you look at it, the bridges were burning in Atlanta, much like in 1917.
The Devils really were a dark horse, in terms of they were mentioned, but no one expected them to be a big player. That's one thing people shouldn't do-- count Jersey out. And while I mentioned that teams may have to trade the farm, the Devils didn't have to do that. Sure, Kovalchuk is a rental in this case, barring any unpredictable occurrence, but the Devils have plenty to play with and giving up who they did won't paralyze them in the long-run. The Devils now have a prolific scorer in their line-up for the first time in a while. Also, they have the greatest goalie of the modern era. This team is scary right now.
Yet, it was mentioned on FOHS from Spector's Hockey's Lyle Richardson that this move could be the deathblow for the Thrashers franchise in Atlanta. When you lose a guy like Kovalchuk, who has been the only real face of the franchise, it's hard to come back from if you don't get someone of his stature to replace him. Especially in an unconventional market like Atlanta, you're going to need something to keep people interested and into the game. While a lot of that will hinge on what the crazy ownership situation does or doesn't do this off-season, but the fact remains that when you deal a franchise player like this and don't have anyone waiting in the wings to pick up the PR slack; it's a tough sell for fans already wondering what a team is doing there in the first place.
All is said and done until the summer for Kovalchuk, but at the same time-- could this be as big as the trade deadline gets for people?? The big names seem to be moving out early and it could be a lot of role players being shuffled at the deadline-- not the sexy thing you like to see or deal with. In any case, now Kovalchuk is a Devil and we have to wonder how much offense he'll be able to produce for a team that many have questioned in terms of scoring prowess. The East just got more interesting.