Ilya Kovalchuk is now a member of the New Jersey Devils. Following months of speculation, the star winger for the Atlanta Thrashers was dealt to the Devils after he and Atlanta GM Don Waddell were unable to come to terms on a contract extension to keep him in Atlanta.
As TSN reports, the deal sends Kovalchuk and Anssi Salmela to New Jersey in exchange for promising talent including defenseman Johnny Oduya, forward Nicklas Bergfors, prospect forward Patrice Cormier, and a 1st round draft pick, as well as a swap of second round picks.
It is interesting that New Jersey, headed my Lou Lamiarello and Jacques Lemaire would be interested in acquiring such a high priced offensive player (for such a conservative duo). The Devils will be forced to pay top dollar to retain their asset past this year, and there is a risk he will return to Russia and join the KHL.
It is definitely a gamble. There are many what if's. What if Kovalchuk gets injured during the Olympics? Pittsburgh had a similar scare when they overpaid for Marian Hossa a couple of years ago. Hossa was injured and missed virtually the remainder of the regular season before joining the Penguins again in time for the playoffs.
Talk of Kovalchuk joining many other teams made no sense, as they were already loaded with offensive minded forwards, or financially strapped. In New Jersey's case, at least Kovalchuk is a good fit for what they need. Time will tell if the deal was a wise move.
Attached below is a top 10 of Kovalchuk's contributions to the Atlanta Thrashers.