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Devils Receive: Ilya Kovalchuk, Anssi Salmela and 2010 second-round pick
Thrashers Receive: Niclas Bergfors, Johnny Oduya, Patrice Cormier and 2010 first- and second-round picks
When Ilya Kovalchuk began nearing free agency, teams got crazy, and for good reason.
The young Russian had five straight 40-goal seasons (including two with 52 goals) and was on pace for a sixth, and he was only 26 years old.
It was known that he'd be traded, as the Thrashers were—and had been for a while—a somewhat pathetic excuse for a franchise.
A number of teams put together offers, but in the end, the Devils—an unknown entrant in the Kovalchuk sweepstakes up to that point—came away with the prized winger.
What's remarkable about this trade is how little they gave up in return.
In exchange for Kovalchuk and D-man Anssi Salmela, the Devils gave up Niclas Bergfors, Johnny Oduya, prospect Patrice Cormier and a first-round pick.
Bergfors had been drowning in the minors for years, and for the first time looked ready to play for an NHL team. With the Devils that season, he had 13 goals and 14 assists in 54 games—decent numbers for a rookie.
Oduya was a good, reliable defender who put up decent offensive numbers: In the two seasons before the trade, he had 26 and 29 points, respectively.
Patrice Cormier represented high-end potential, but had his share of problems, having caused brain damage to a skater via a dirty elbow earlier in the QMJHL season that year.
The first-round pick became Daniel Paille.
Since the trade, Bergfors has virtually disappeared, scoring 36 points last year, and just two this year. Oduya, while still a solid defender, has not developed any new aspects to his game or improved significantly. Cormier had two points in 21 games last season and nothing in six games this year.
While Kovalchuk has certainly struggled with the Devils, he seems to be returning to form. However, even if he were to never hit 30 goals again, the pieces given up in that trade were worth the risk. The Devils secured a top talent in the league and did it without giving up anyone who would even be on the roster these days.