OFFICIAL: Ilya Kovalchuk, Anssi Salmela to New Jersey Devils for Johnny Oduya, Niclas Bergfors, Patrice Cormier and a 1st Round Pick

It's been firing on Twitter and now TSN has this short post up saying that reports indicate that Atlanta forward Ilya Kovalchuk will be traded to the New Jersey Devils.   TSN reports the deal is Kovalchuk for Johnny Oduya, Nicklas Bergfors, Patrice Cormier, and a 1st round pick. 

CRUCIAL UPDATE: Per @BenThrashers, here's the press release from Atlanta's website about the trade.  I'd call that official!

UPDATE AGAIN: Both teams also swapped second round picks for the 2010 draft, per Gulitti.


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2009 - Ilya Kovalchuk 49 31 27 58 1 45 10 0 3 0 179 17.3
2009 - Anssi Salmela 29 1 4 5 4 22 0 0 0 0 27 3.7

2010 2nd Round Pick

for


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2009 - Johnny Oduya 40 2 2 4 2 18 0 0 0 0 44 4.5
2009 - Nicklas Bergfors 54 13 14 27 -7 10 8 0 4 0 134 9.7


prospect Patrice Cormier, a 2010 1st Round Pick, and a 2010 2nd Round Pick.

There are no details yet on the actual terms of the deal, nor is there any official confirmation.  But given that the sources are coming from reporters such as Bob McKenzie, Kevin Allen, and Jeff Marek, it's likely going to happen. (UPDATE: And now TSN, of course UPDATE AGAIN: Now totally official)

I will update this post specifically once there is confirmation of the details TSN has details now AND if/when it becomes official.  Please comment on how you feel about Kovalchuk becoming a Devil.  Please do not post speculation, if you hear something, provide a link with it so we're all aware.  Deal is official, share your thoughts!

And remember, as of now, nothing is official just yet.  But if this holds true, I'm ecstatic.

MINI-UPDATE #1:  NHL.com is comfortable reporting the reports.  That should be a good sign for this actually happening.  Now, what are the details?  It's not clear, I'm reading different packages online.

INITIAL SHORT REACTION TO TSN'S REPORT: Not Clarkson? Not Tedenby? Not Josefson? That's it?  NEVER DOUBT LOU.  Lou just FLEECED Atlanta...if true.

INITIAL LONGER REACTION: Oh, man, oh man, oh man oh man.  Combined with the fact that Gulitti reported that Patrik Elias was back practicing (no, he won't play tomorrow, according to Lemaire), I'm getting all kinds of crazy ideas on how to use Kovalchuk.  Do you pair him on the right side with Parise and Zajac?  Do you keep him on the left side and rock Elias at center and Rolston on the other wing?  Does the power play now go to five forwards? 

Basically, the Devils just traded a talented defenseman who has been underperforming after signing his big contract with the team in the past summer (Oduya), a rookie forward who has hit the wall in the worst way and hasn't been able to get back on track in over a month (Bergfors), a prospect center who's been suspended for elbowing a player in the face and had upside of a two-way center to begin with (Cormier), and a first round pick that will be late anyway.   All this for one of the best pure snipers in hockey. 

Lou Lamoriello rules.  More later after further official confirmation.

LONG TERM QUESTIONS:  Does Oduya's $3.5 million clear up enough space to retain Paul Martin?   Are we happy of a top four of Greene, Salvador, Mottau, and White?  How much do we pray that Martin comes back 100% healthy and stays healthy?  Does Anssi Salmela push Mark Fraser on that #6 spot on the blueline?  With a month to go, do the Devils make further trades for a defenseman to boost the blueline or do they clear space to try and keep Kovalchuk?  Do we go and buy #17 jerseys for Kovalchuk?

A LAST REACTION NOW THAT IT'S OFFICIAL:  Poor, poor, poor Atlanta Thrasher fans.  Don Waddell just traded one of the league's best goal scorers, a offensive threat that literally comes at a premium, and throws in a young defenseman for Oduya, Bergfors, prospect Cormier, and a first round pick that's going to be late anyway.  Talk about a surprisingly underwhelming return.

In my mind, this has to be seen as a rental first.  Kovalchuk's going to demand and command a lot of money in the summer.  He's young, he's frightfully good with the puck, and he has an instinct that is rare among hockey players: goal scoring.  So unless Lou starts shedding cap space over the next month - yes, he has a month to make more deals - this is a bold step to get the team ready for a deep run.   I admire the bold move, he provides a seriously skilled offensive dimension that few teams have in this league.  I'm not even terribly worried that he's not a great defensive player because that can be taught (and will be in New Jersey) and other forwards can cover for him as needed.

The New Jersey Devils regardless have to start playing better hockey despite the trade, Kovalchuk alone isn't going to spark this team to greatness.  However, he does provide a significant offensive threat, it's not like he was riding anyone's coattails in Atlanta for all these years.   I will also say that the defense needs to be better, specifically Mike Mottau.  Until Paul Martin returns and given their recent play, I'm worried that the blueline will still be prone to lethal errors on the ice.  Sure, Kovalchuk gives the Devils another weapon to "respond" to those errors; but he's not going to be enough if the defense doesn't tighten up.

Getting Salmela in return is a nice throw-in and that's that.  He should be competing on the third pairing at most, maybe he'll stay on as an "extra" defenseman.   I'm more surprised that Waddell dealt more than just Kovalchuk.

I will say that once Elias (who's closer to returning, he did practice today, per Gulitti), Clarkson, and Martin are healthy, this Devils team looks scary-good on paper.  Imagine this possible lineup for the skaters:

Parise-Zajac-Kovalchuk
Elias-Zubrus-Rolston
Pandolfo-Niedermayer-Clarkson
Pelley-McAmmond-Zharkov


Martin-Salvador
Greene-White
Mottau-Salmela/Fraser

Put Martin Brodeur behind that group and tell me that's not a contending team.  Go ahead, try and tell me.

Lastly, per Gulitti, Kovalchuk will debut as a Devil tomorrow. Salmela should be available if needed. So much for these three games against Toronto becoming all too familiar, what with all the trades involved.

Outside Takes:  Here's the initial reaction from the Atlanta perspective, The Falconer breaks down his quick take much more organized than this one at Bird Watchers Anonymous.  For a more general take, Mike Chen has this reaction at From the Rink.

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