The New Jersey Devils won the Ilya Kovalchuk sweepstakes, but the return seems to be smaller than what most people expected, especially when the scuttlebutt had a bidding war that would eclipse the Marian Hossa deal (if you recall, that trade included hard working Colby Armstrong, hit-and-miss Erik Christensen, former first founder Angelo Esposito before he blew out his knee, and a 1st round pick).
In this case, the Devils gave up Johnny Oduya -- a reliable defenseman who could munch 18-20 minutes a night but would never be a 40-point guy -- along with rookie Niclas Bergfors, who is having a good, though not spectacular, campaign, prospect Patrice Cormier, and a first round pick..
The a key component to the deal, outside of the 1st-rounder pick, is Patrice Cormier. Even if you don't know prospects, you've probably heard of Cormier as he was involved with an elbow play that led him to a season-long suspension. Outside of that, Cormier was captain of the 2010 Canadian World Junior squad. Gritty and physical, Cormier isn't the most gifted when it comes to his hands, but he can still put the puck in the net. Here's what Hockey's Future had to say about him:
While Cormier may not be the most naturally gifted player, he's about as well-rounded a prospect as the Devils have coming up right now. He possesses both the offensive skill set and defensive acumen to eventually be a two-way force at the next level. Having just signed his first pro contract this summer, Cormier will look to make an impact in training camp, and unless he finds his way onto the Devils roster, he will return to Rimouski for the 2009-10 season, with an eye towards turning pro in 2010-11.
Bergfors started out stronger, but his play tailed off after the new year -- sorry, Winter Classic day -- but that's to be expected. As an AHL player, Bergfors scored 22 goals in 66 games last season. The former first rounder has 25-goal potential, and it remains to be seen what Bergfors can do outside of Jacques Lemaire's system (and his doghouse, which he'd taken up a part-time residence).
Ah, Jacques Lemaire, or as Marian Gaborik likes to call him, Mr. No Fun. While the Devils could use help outside of Zach Parise and Travis Zajac, I wouldn't think Kovalchuk would fit into the prototypical New Jersey Devil mold. I think Gaborik's time with the Wild will be a good analogy, as Gaborik was constantly frustrated with the lack of creativity, and Kovalchuk hasn't exactly been known for the greatest work ethic or attention to defense.
Because of Kovalchuk's on-again/off-again attitude and Lemaire's demands, I'm somewhat cautious about how this will all work out. The Devils got what they needed, but will the part fit the engine? That remains to be seen.
From Atlanta's side, this seems comparable to the Hossa deal: a roster player (Oduya/Armstrong), a good-but-not-superstar prospect (Cormier/Esposito), and a first rounder with the only difference being Bergfors offering more upside than Erik Christensen. Perhaps the news about Kovalchuk's future salary demands lessened the bidding, even for teams seeking just a rental.
In the meantime, that noise you hear is noted Devils fan (and Mrs. Olli Jokinen nemesis) Greg "Puck Daddy" Wyshynski shouting from the rooftops.
Update 2: Reaction from In Lou We Trust.