February 5, 2010 :: 1:24am ET
Devilishly good trade for New Jersey
By David Pagnotta, TheFourthPeriod.com

[TORONTO, ON] -- Okay, so maybe my theory about the Detroit Red Wings possibly going after Ilya Kovalchuk didn't pan out. That's fine. At least this whole Kovy saga is over and done with (for now).

With reports floating around suggesting Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles were knocking on Thrashers GM Don Waddell's door, everyone was focused on the potential sexy story; Kovalchuk's a King; Hawks land superstar sniper; Flyers land Kovy.

Instead, when news broke (big props to USA Today's Kevin Allen for first reporting the trade) that Kovalchuk was heading to New Jersey, it almost seemed as if the hockey world's response was, "Aww man! Really?"

Of note, I did call Puck Daddy's Greg Wyshynski, a lifetime Devils fan, to see if he needed any help stitching 'Kovalchuk' over his 'Lemieux' jersey.

Nevertheless, Kovalchuk is a Devil and Lou played this one perfectly.

The Devils were never in the mix until Sunday, when Lamoriello called Waddell after he had been scouting the Kings in New Jersey. From there, talks apparently went rather smoothly.

"We looked at several deals really closely," Waddell said. "It wasn't easy, but at the end of the day this was the best deal for us."

The Thrashers received defenseman Johnny Oduya, right wing Niclas Bergfors, center Patrice Cormier, a 2010 first-round pick and a 2010 second-round pick.

From New Jersey's perspective, what did they really give up? A steady No.3 defenseman, a rookie forward with second-line potential, a top prospect (despite this season's gigantic oops), and a first-rounder (the teams swapped second round picks).

Oduya's going to replace Pavel Kubina in the backend, who will either be traded before the Mar. 3 deadline or leave as an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Bergfors will see considerably more ice time in Atlanta, and the Thrashers hope he'll find an instant connection with fellow rookie Evander Kane.

Cormier is a player the Devils were very reluctant to trade, according to Waddell. And for good reason. He's a very talented player and will be given every opportunity to make the Thrashers' lineup in September.

You have to give to get, and the Devils can afford to part with this package. It's not like they moved David Clarkson or Travis Zajac. The Devils still have a strong core of young talent and Kovalchuk has significantly improved their chances at capturing Lord Stanley's Cup.

On the flip side, the Thrashers came out pretty good, too.

This was the best option available, even though we're told the Kings were in it right until the end.

"There was one team that kept coming back to me and was trying to find a way to make the deal work," Waddell said, without confirming the team other than to say it was a Western Conference club.

So as the Devils gear up for what's expected to be another Stanley Cup run, the Thrashers are left pondering the immediate future. With Kovalchuk gone, what does that mean for the likes of Slava Kozlov, Colby Armstrong, Todd White and Maxim Afinogenov?

The Thrashers aren't finished dealing. But they aren't necessarily sellers.

"We're looking daily," Waddell acknowledged. "If there's a fit out there that makes some sense, I'm certainly going to look at it."

Kozlov has a no-trade clause and will have to approve any deal the team tries to make, but with the Kings, Detroit Red Wings and Flyers supposedly interested, there's a good chance he says 'yes'.

The Thrashers also have three goalies on the roster, even though Johan Hedberg's in the final year of his contract.

It's believed the Thrashers will try to trade Kari Lehtonen, but Waddell wouldn't confirm which direction he stands.

"We've had some talks with some teams, but we're still approaching it to see if it makes sense to carry with three goalies… no decisions have been made yet," he said.

Life without Kovalchuk started around 7pm ET Thursday. It'll be interesting to see how the team adjusts.

David Pagnotta is the Editor-in-Chief of The Fourth Period Magazine and covers the NHL for TheFourthPeriod.com. He is also a contributing writer for NBCSports.com and MSNBC.

  Feb. 04, 2010 Kovalchuk and the KHL
  Jan. 11, 2010 Kovalchuk: Worth every penny
  Dec. 30, 2009 Tampa's success rides on Lecavalier's shoulders
  Dec. 23, 2009 It's not only about the money for Kovalchuk
  Dec. 17, 2009 Kovalchuk dominates, contract talks continue
  Nov. 24, 2009 Pouliot finally arrives in Montreal
  Oct. 16, 2009 For Bozak and Leafs, the future should be now
  Oct. 01, 2009 Kovalchuk remains in wait-and-see mode


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