The hockey world was stunned last night when the Atlanta Thrashers traded superstar sniper Ilya Kovalchuk to the New Jersey Devils for rookie Niclas Bergfors, defenseman Johnny Oduya, prospect Patrice Cormier & NJ’s first round pick in the 2010 NHL draft.
The deal immediately reminded me of one that GM Lou Lamoriello pulled off almost ten years to the day when he swapped Denis Pederson & a young Brendan Morrison to Vancouver for another Russian sniper — Alexander Mogilny — on March 14, 2000.
The Mogilny deal was very successful as the Devils made two consecutive trips to the Stanley Cup Finals, beating Dallas in 2000 and losing to Colorado in 2001. Can this deal work the same magic? Given the fact that the Lamoriello didn’t have to gut the team to acquire Kovalchuk and the fact that he can still make another move or two before the trading deadline, I would say this puts New Jersey as strong contender to represent the East in the Finals (along with Buffalo, Pittsburgh and Washington).
Besides the question of is Lamoriello done dealing, another big question will be is Kovalchuk a rental? The 26-year-old turned down an offer of over $100 million over 10 years from Atlanta, but would he take less to stay with an established Cup-contending team? Time will tell, but I’m glad that Kovalchuk is on our side now.