Friday, February 05, 2010

Kovalchuk Dealt to the Devils

2009/2010 NHL Statistics
To New JerseyPositionAgeGPGoalsPoints2010 Cap Hit2011 Cap Hit
Ilya KovalchukForward26493158$6.4 millionUFA
Anssi SalmelaDefenseman252915$613,000$613,000
2010 2nd Round Pick
To AtlantaPositionAgeGPGoalsPoints2010 Cap Hit2011 Cap Hit
Niclas BergforsForward22541327$818,000RFA
Johnny OduyaDefenseman284024$3.5 million$3.5 million
Patrice CormierForward19000N/A$875,000
2010 1st Round Pick
2010 2nd Round Pick

The deal is done and let the judgment begin. Ilya Kovalchuk is now a Devil, in more ways than one. He leaves Atlanta under some scrutiny, turning down two major offers for big bucks in order to get dealt to a contender, which he was in New Jersey.

Kovalchuk and defenseman, Anssi Salmela, a former-Devil before this trade occurred, headed to New Jersey for a fairly young package with a veteran defender in Johnny Oduya. Part of that young package is rookie, Niclas Bergfors, who has some good offensive upside, which he has put on display already this season for Jersey. Of course, there was also a swapping of picks, a 2nd rounder going each way and the Thrashers get New Jersey's 1st rounder, which is generally customary in a deal like this.

Now, the argument rages on in regards to whether or not Atlanta got enough for the winger.

Salary CapNow, it's a question of salary cap. The Devils, with Kovalchuk & Salmela in their line-up, they don't even go over the cap limit with their group of players, which includes Patrik Elias' whole $6 million cap hit. Then you can discount injuries, Kovalchuk's value compared to what left the team and the Devils are rosy.

The Thrashers, also have no concern for the remainder of 2010, as they have shed cap space, which they already had a good handle on before this deal.

In 2011, this is where everything gets interesting. The big concern is whether or not they could possibly re-sign Kovalchuk and fit him underneath the cap going forward. Well, the group I have listed as already re-signed has 15 players in it for $40.8 million, which doesn't leave a great deal of space, once Kovalchuk negotiates his deal. The rumours suggest that Kovalchuk may take less money to be with a contender like this, so $8 million might still be manageable, especially with most of the core already signed on.

Atlanta will likely be a huge player in the free agent market this coming July, as they have cap space up the wazoo. They currently have 11 players signed on for the 2011 season for the small cap hit of $27.7 million. There will be all sorts of flexibility and some good picks to move into the system to help turn this team into a real contender.

ImplicationsIn the Draft, it wasn't just the major player moving, we also had one more make a switch this time around. First of all, Kovalchuk is a member of Allan's team, which is still trying to move up and close a gap in the standings, now sitting only 9 points behind 8th spot. A big Kovalchuk run will give him some help in doing that. Bergfors was picked up in the second Waiver Draft by Dale C., who currently sits in 7th place and I can't imagine that he'll increase his scoring too much with this move. Although, Bergfors might end up getting a bit more ice-time in Atlanta, as they will try and sort out some new lines without their superstar.

On the Sheet, let's see how many times each player was taken. Kovalchuk is in Box 17, taken 0 times. Bergfors is in Box 25, taken 0 times. Oduya is in Box 27, taken 0 times. So, in conclusion... this deal doesn't have any effect on the pool at all.

The first thing that really comes to mind when reviewing this deal is how much better the Devils have just become. They were already in the debate for the Eastern Conference's best team, having the 2nd best record in the conference going into Friday and now they upgrade their scoring from Bergfors to Kovalchuk, which is leaps and bounds. That has to be scary from the perspective of any other team in the East, except for maybe Washington, who continues to roll.

Personally, I don't think the Thrashers got enough in this deal. I thought that Atlanta would be holding teams over a barrel with this potential move, but a rookie NHL winger, a stay-at-home defenseman, a suspended junior player and two picks don't really scream a good return for a major goal-scorer like Kovalchuk. If the Devils are to win the Cup with Kovalchuk in their stable, that alone makes this deal worth while in the end. Re-signing Kovalchuk would be a bonus and can definitely happen.

This deal is a straight-up win for New Jersey.

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