Bruins Lose Kovalchuk Sweepstakes

4 Sport BostonCorrespondent IFebruary 5, 2010

ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 19:  Ilya Kovalchuk #17 of the Atlanta Thrashers walks back to the locker room during aa break in between periods of the game against the Boston Bruins on November 19, 2003 at Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia. The Thrashers defeated the Bruins 5-4. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

(Originally posted at )

So, it turns out I was right.

Man, do I hate being right.

For the last few weeks now, all of the talk around the Bruins has been about whether or not Peter Chiarelli would make the big deal to bring in Ilya Kovalchuk as a puck panacea to cure all that ails the Bruins. Friend of 4SB Joe Gill at Boston Sports Then and Now maintained that the B’s needed to do whatever it took to land the dynamic left-winger in a Black and Gold sweater – even for only the final three months of the season. I, on the other hand, continued to state the obvious – this Bruins team is simply not good enough to win the Stanley Cup – and trading away key assets for a three-month dash to the seventh seed was not good business. Our differing opinions made for good discussion on the last two 4SB podcasts (Tuesday nights at 10 p.m. for all your Bruin cathartic needs) but I always felt that in the end Chiarelli was a smart man and would realize he was barely one player away from the playoffs, never mind hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup in June.

If this was a math test, I would get an A because my answer was right. However, if Professor Leger checked my work, he would see that the chicken-scratch leading up to the correct answer of “No” does not compute. My contention all along is that Atlanta was going to bring back a treasure trove of talent in exchange for renting out the best player to ever wear the ugliest jersey in hockey. Kovalchuk is without question one of the five best players in the NHL.

If you total up all the goals scored since the 2001-02 season, Kovalchuk has the biggest piece of that pie with 328 scores. Not Crosby, not Ovechkin, instead it was a player playing in relative obscurity in Hotlanta, overshadowed by the Gold Club, Bad Newz Kennels and Waffle House.

Atlanta GM Don Wadell maintained all along that he was hoping to resign his franchise. Not his franchise player – his actual franchise. Make no mistake, Atlanta losing Kovalchuk is most likely the death blow for the Thrashers. No one cared about this team to begin with and with no discernible draw in the lineup, attendance is about to dip lower than your “Pants on the Ground”.

With the success of the Coyotes this season, the Thrash become contestant number one to be relocated in the next few years. Wadell came out yesterday afternoon and revealed that Kovalchuk turned down two deals from the club – a seven-year $70 million offer and a 12-year, $101 million offer – greasing the wheels for the eventual trade. That move signaled to the NHL franchises to make their best offer as the window for bargaining was closing.

The expectation was that Wadell was looking for a big-time deal to restock his club. Most media outlets figured the team acquiring Kovalchuk would have to relinquish two high-end players from its NHL roster, a big-time prospect and a first-round draft choice. That is a steep price to pay for a three-month rental, which is what Kovalchuk likely is. Atlanta wouldn’t allow teams to discuss an extension with Kovie before making a deal and there is no way he misses his chance at seeing what is on the market. Wadell not allowing teams to talk contract with Kovie before making a deal may have lessened the haul brought back, but it also sped up the negotiations.

So, last night right around the time the puck dropped between the B’s and Canadiens at the Garden, word started filtering out that the Devils were the team which landed the star winger. The Devils! The team that is known for scoffing at the idea of excessive offense and seems to almost tether its players to the defensive zone went out and acquired the biggest fish on the market.

Freakin’ Lou Lamoriello. The long-time mastermind of the Devils franchise swooped in and stole Kovalchuk out from under the nose of the frequently-mentioned frontrunners. Instead of locking up a Stanley Cup berth for San Jose or Chicago or vaulting the Bruins or Flyers past the seven other teams vying for the final playoff spots, Kovalchuk will take his pinpoint shot to the Jersey Turnpike and hope to push the Devils past the defending champion Penguins and the probable heir to the throne Capitals.

So who did New Jersey have to sacrifice to land Kovalchuk? Has to be a big package, right? It must have been tough for the Devils to part with Travis Zajac, the young top-line center who was the centerpiece of the deal … wait … you’re saying they didn’t have to trade him? Man, they really traded Paul Martin, the superb defenseman who is recovering from a broken forearm … huh … he wasn’t sent packing? Who did New Jersey have to include, Bon Jovi? You can’t acquire Ilya Kovalchuk for nothing, can you?!?!?!

(Scans transaction list ….)

Looks like you can.

Here is the final deal. New Jersey acquires Kovalchuk and defenseman Anssi Salmela for...