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A Look Back: The Kovalchuk Trade

February 8, 2011 Leave a comment

 

Ilya Kovalchuk hasn't been the offensive force the Devils expected, but he's picked up his play during the second half of this season. Photo Credit: Graham Hughes/AP Photo - The Canadian Press

As the trade deadline approaches, The Devils’ Den will look at previous important trades the New Jersey Devils made around the deadline. This feature will run throughout the month of February.

Last season, New Jersey Devils general manager pulled off one of the biggest blockbuster trades in franchise’s history.

Lacking scoring and turning in inconsistent efforts, Lamoriello shook up his roster. In a trade with the Atlanta Thrashers, the Devils’ general manager brought in Ilya Kovalchuk, giving the Devils a huge offensive weapon for the stretch run. In return, he traded away struggling forward Niclas Bergfors and underachieving defenseman Johnny Oduya. Other picks and players were traded as well.

The move was a bold statement from a team not known for making big moves. And while it ultimately made little difference – the team once again lost in the first round in the playoffs – it became one of the iconic trades for the franchise.

Who knew the deal would continue to reverberate today. Kovalchuk was, for all intents and purposes, a rental last season. His contract ran out after the playoff loss and immediately created speculation. Would New Jersey attempt to re-sign the left winger? Were the Los Angeles Kings really interested? And how much would it take to land Kovalchuk?

We all know what happened from there. “The Kovalchuk Saga” consumed the entire summer, dragging the Devils through the mud time after time. Every Devils’ fan became educated in arbitration hearings, and everyone thoroughly dissected the term “circumventing the cap.” The drama ended in September, with Kovalchuk signed and amendments made to the collective bargaining agreement.

So far, the deadline deal has been a push. Kovalchuk didn’t really impact the Devils offense last season, and this season he’s been inconsistent at best. He’s only in the first year of a new 15-year contract, so this end of the deal won’t be settled for quite some time. It doesn’t seem like Atlanta received a better end of the deal either. Oduya hasn’t done much (24 points in 83 games), and Bergfors continues to bounce in and out of the lineup. Patrice Cormier could become a great player, but he has yet to make an impact.

The Kovalchuk trade surprised several people, and was a bold step for this reserved franchise. The true impact won’t be felt for years, but it was one of the biggest surprises last season.

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