Sports Outside the Beltway

Atlanta Thrashers trade Ilya Kovalchuk to New Jersey

The long anticipated deal finally took place. From ESPN-

The New Jersey Devils have won the Ilya Kovalchuk sweepstakes, acquiring the superstar winger from the Atlanta Thrashers on Thursday night.

The Devils have struggled of late, especially scoring goals. Veteran Devils GM Lou Lamoriello didn’t hesitate, swooping in and acquiring the biggest rental player available on this year’s trade market.

In exchange, the Thrashers get rookie forward Niclas Bergfors, defenseman Johnny Oduya, prospect Patrice Cormier and a first-round pick in this year’s draft.

Oduya has two more years on his deal after this season at a $3.5 million salary-cap hit. Bergfors will be a restricted free agent July 1. Cormier was suspended for the rest of the season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League for an elbowing incident but he’s a highly regarded prospect.

In addition to Kovalchuk, New Jersey also gets defenseman Anssi Salmela, who was originally a Devil and sent to Atlanta at the trade deadline last year.

Kovalchuck is still a free agent at the end of this season. The Devils may have acquired a rental only. If Kovalchuk doesn’t get New Jersey to the Stanley Cup finals at least before fleeing for greener pastures, this deal will rate as a total bust.

Here is another concern with the dea- How well will Kovalchuk, 31 goals and 27 assists in 49 games this season, play under the system, sometimes referred to as ‘neutral zone trap’ used by NJ Devils Coach Jacques Lemaire? It is very defensive oriented. I think Kovalchuk will adapt but may slow scoring goals and assists till the Olympic break.

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