Get Ready to See More of Ilya Kovalchuk (in a Devils Uniform)

Get Ready to See More of Ilya Kovalchuk (in a Devils Uniform)
February 4, 2010, 6:24 pm
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If you've been tracking the trade rumors involving Ilya Kovalchuk, chances are you know that a few hours ago, a trade was finalized that would send the sniper to New Jersey for a package of Johnny Oduya, Niclas Bergfors, Patrice Cormier, and their 2010 first round pick. Former Devil Anssi Salmela will head to Jersey as well. 

So what's this mean to us? The first wave of impact for most Flyers fans will be that the Devils, who've routinely given our teams fits for more than a decade, just added a forward who is more talented than any they've ever had. 

They still have Marty Brodeur and a sound defensive system—a combination that has produced the lowest goals-against total in the NHL so far this season. And now, they also have the guy who has scored the second most goals in the league since the lockout, behind only Alex Ovechkin. Offense was an area in which the Devils were somewhat lacking, particularly lately. They just addressed that situation in as big a way possible, and they didn't give up all that much to rent or test-drive Kovy. 

I won't pretend to be an expert in the Devils' younger players and prospects, but here's their end of the deal as I understand it. Bergfors, a rookie whose stats we've seen alongside JVR's in the freshman scoring races, was off to a good start this season, but he's walled out somewhat recently. A pending RFA after this season, he's expected to develop into a nice player, and his name also indicates that he plays Peter Forsberg's foil in Bizarro World. Oduya was rewarded with a new contract last off-season but hasn't been too great in an injury-affected 09-10. He currently has just 4 points and a plus-2 rating after putting up 29 with a plus-21 last season. And the high prospect Cormier? Well, maybe he'll have a different kind of impact next season. Not long ago, Cormier was best known as Team Canada's captain in the World Juniors; now he's a popular hit on YouTube. The Devils' first-round pick will probably be toward the end of the round. 

Yes, sadly, this looks like a good trade for the Devils, even if they can't re-sign Kovalchuk after this season when he becomes a FA. Any speculation as to whether he'll be in Jersey beyond this year is probably premature. But, although the price will be high (he just turned down Thrashers' extension offers, one of which was said to average $10 million per season, representing the NHL's most lucrative annual salary), it's still possible. 

The trade was wisely primarily about this season for New Jersey though. Martin Brodeur has been their biggest meal ticket since the days of Chris Terreri's funky facemask, and they need to get in any legitimate Cup runs they can while they still have the best goalie in the history of the sport. 

And guess what! We'll get to see Devils+aBonaFideScorer in a home and home series next week—at the Wach on Monday and in Jerz on Wednesday. 

Although the Flyers were said to be an interested party in the Kovalchuk sweepstakes, it doesn't sound like it ever go too far. This shouldn't come as much of a surprise given the cap constraints the team has been up against for a few seasons, the contract Kovy has now, and the massive numbers he wants in the future. But Kevin Allen, the USA Today writer who broke this huge trade story, says that the Flyers were never willing to give up Jeff Carter or James vanRiemsdyk. 

Carter is under contract, and at a relatively manageable number. His stats this season haven't held up to the standard he set last season, when he actually scored more goals than Kovalchuk (by a margin of three goals, while having played three more games). However, that output has been at least the norm for Kovy, who already has 31 goals this season, versus the exception for Carter. But the bigger point here is that the Flyers were nothing more than a storyline in all of this, which was true of a handful of teams. Maybe they helped spike the price for the Devils, but it doesn't appear to have been by much. 

The biggest point is that the Devils are a more dangerous threat than they were yesterday, and just in time for two matchups with the Flyers. This was the ah-shit scenario for Flyers fans, as well as the other Eastern Conference contenders. You really would have liked the weather in LA, Ilya. Please be sure to visit California before you sign your next contract.   

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