New Jersey Devils: Ilya Kovalchuk Deal is Killer

OK so I had a son born today, but I'm waaaay too wound up to not write something about this. My favorite hockey team, the one I've followed since the mid-80s, has acquired an offensive player that is considered top two or three in all of hockey talent-wise. They've never had this in their history, and while some might argue that Parise falls into that category, Parise has the talent yes, but he gets a lot of what he does because he works like a demon for it. Some guys like Kovalchuk are like an upgraded version of Stephane Richer. Can score at will when they're putting in 100 percent effort, it's just that the effort comes and goes in waves. Richer's beach had far fewer waves in his career.

This deal is great from every angle. In many ways, it was the injuries earlier in the year that allowed the team to make this deal because Lou was able to realize how much depth he had on the roster when guys like Palmeiri, Davis and Zharkov came up to play, they did not look out of place. Plus, someone like Zharkov or Davis might not be putting up the points that Bergfors did earlier in the year, but they also don't take shifts off or make too many bad plays defensively. The Devils had someone like Fraser step up and excel. And Corrente didn't look too out of place. So it allowed the team to deal a Johnny Oduya and replace him with the apparent "downgrade" of an Anssi Salmela.

Plus the team still has Elias and Clarkson coming back and possibly, at some point, Paul Martin. This team has been overperforming all year because of all the injuries and it's allowed Lou the flexibility to do something like this, even though, in all likelihood, the team will never re-sign Kovalchuk.

Patrice Cormier was a good prospect, but from all reports, seemed destined to be a two-way center at his top AND you realize that this guy has done the elbow thing not once, but twice. That has to be a factor when thinking about someone in the Colin Campbell-policed NHL. You're not going to get away with Tie Domi-esque infractions any more, especially having the microscope of you like the kid does now.

And as for the pick, well, I'll never discount the Devils ability to find someone great in the lower part of the draft, but for every Brodeur and Parise, you also have plenty of Adrian Fosters and Ari Ahonens.

So you take a run and a chance that the Devils will now score three or four goals a game with two great scoring lines (Elias-Zubrus-Kovalchuk and Parise-Zajac-Langenbrunner), a very improved power play while not sacrificing defense in the interim. It reminds me now of the 2000 and 2001 Devils teams, minus the Scott Stevens-type presence. But the Devils should have more scoring up front than they've had since those great teams with the A-Line and Mogilny-Gomez.

The Devils will also achieve some cap relief as well if they don't re-sign Kovalchuk and they'll have a better shot at signing Parise and Martin to long-term deals if they so desire to. And if they do happen to make Ilya happy, then perhaps they find a cornerstone player, a player that is more marketable than any player in the New York/New Jersey area. And when have the Devils ever had that? Not that they would take advantage of it like they should.

This seems like possibly one of the best deals Lou has ever orchestrated. You had to believe that something was coming with how poorly this team has looked on the ice lately, with the worst result being the embarrassing loss to the Leafs the other night. Lou is nothing if not completely adept at seeing when his team was floundering and had nothing going right.

It might not ultimately work out in a Stanley Cup for the Devils, but you have to admire Lou for doing something that was totally unexpected on the Martin Brodeur career end countdown clock. This deal is genius. It's pure Lou.

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