Devils make bold move; Acquire star forward Ilya Kovalchuk

The New Jersey Devils made their first splash of the NHL trade deadline, acquiring Atlanta Thrashers star winger Ilya Kovalchuk and Anssi Samela this evening. Kevin Allen of USAToday first reported the deal.
The Thrashers received an underwhelming return, acquiring Devils defenseman Johnny Oduya, forward Niclas Bergfors, prospect Patrice Cormier and a first round pick.

New Jersey who have been seeking a star forward to give Zach Parise some much needed help upfront, acquired one of the most dynamic players in the game in Ilya Kovalchuk.
Kovalchuk, 26, has 31 goals and 27 assists on the season and has amassed 328 goals and 278 assists in 594 career games with the Thrashers.
The Devils currently sit in first place in the Atlantic Division with 72 points and their window of opportunity is now.
Tied for 25th {New Jersey Devils} in the league in goals, Kovalchuk gives the Devils a one-two punch of Parise/Kovalchuk that many teams in the league can’t rival.
Kovalchuk who declined a deal upwards of $101 million over 12 years from the Atlanta Thrashers will clearly be a rental in New Jersey.
“Ultimately, we offered Kovy more than $101 million over 12 years, which would have been the highest contract signed by an impending unrestricted free agent in the history of the league, ” Thrashers GM Don Waddell said today in a statement.
However, the Devils acquired Kovalchuk without breaking up the core of their team for the present or the future.
How Ilya Kovalchuk fits into Jacques Lemaire’s system has been a major question mark. He will have to become more committed to the defensive zone but Kovalchuk will have an opportunity to flourish offensively, due to the Devils transition game which has given elite teams like Pittsburgh fits.
With the addition of Kovalchuk and No. 1 defenseman Paul Martin expected to return for the stretch run, New Jersey is in prime position to make a Stanley Cup run.
Has the acquisition of Kovalchuk altered the Eastern Conference in a way that Marian Hossa did in 2008 for Pittsburgh? The Devils are clearly a top contender in the East but not to the extent of Hossa in 2008, when the move pushed Pittsburgh a step or two above the rest in the East.
Washington is clearly the class of the Eastern Conference right now and have plenty of cap space to upgrade their blueline. And even if Pittsburgh stands pat at the trade deadline, which would be surprising, Pittsburgh remains one of the most dangerous teams in the East and a match up problem for most teams in a Best-of-Seven.
Meanwhile, Penguin sources tell me this evening, the Penguins are not going to make any rush judgements and alter their trade deadline philosophy due to the Devils making a major splash.
However, I do get the sense of a little urgency.

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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