Ilya Kovalchuk is now a member of the New Jersey Devils. After months of squabbling with ridiculous contract terms (he was in the ballpark of 10-year, $100 million), the Thrashers finally figured out Kovalchuk wanted no part of staying in Atlanta. In return, the Devils sent rookie Niclas Bergfors, defenseman Johnny Oduya, prospect Patrice Cormier, and a 1st round pick this summer. The Devils also received Anssi Salmela in the deal.
Of particular interest in the trade is Patrice Cormier. He was suspended for the remainder of the season by the QMJHL for this hit. Cormier also threw a wicked elbow in the World Juniors against Sweden. That didn’t garner nearly as much interest as no one nearly died because of it.
Anyways, when the ruling from the QMJHL came down, Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello promised Cormier would sit for the rest of the season even though he easily could have placed him on their AHL affiliate, the Lowell Devils roster. Well, Atlanta general manager Don Waddell has made no such promise so there’s a decent possibility Cormier could suit up for the Chicago Wolves. Only time will tell on that, though.
Just for fun, let’s take a closer look at the package New Jersey sent over for Kovalchuk and see how it matches up with what the Hawks could have offered.
- Johnny Oduya– Oduya was a legitimate top-4 defenseman on one of the best defensive teams in the NHL. He’s having a bit of a down season after signing a contract extension in the summer. While people would be quick to offer up Cam Barker, I just don’t see why Atlanta would’ve accepted anything less than Ham Sandwich here.
- Niclas Bergfors– After opening up the season with 27 points in 41 games, Bergfors has been unable to notch a point in his last 13 games. He’s playing on his rookie contract and up for restricted free agency in the summer. Kris Versteeg would probably be the guy Atlanta would’ve wanted in this spot.
- Patrice Cormier– Atlanta wasn’t in the market for a defenseman so Shawn Lalonde would’ve been out here. That leaves a collection of wingers including Kyle Beach, Akim Aliu, and Billy Sweatt (though I’m not entirely sure if NCAA players can have their rights traded. Anyone who knows the answer, please feel free to share).
- 1st round pick– The Hawks pick looks like it will be right around New Jersey’s so that matches up fairly well.
With all that, it looks it would have taken a package of Ham Sandwich, Versteeg, prospect winger du jour, and a 1st round pick. I’m sure some will disagree and say Cam Barker could’ve gotten it done, but I’m just not buying it. Atlanta wanted a legit top-4 defenseman so Ham Sandwich it would’ve been.
Do you make that trade? Keep in mind, you’re also getting a fairly young depth defenseman back from Atlanta. I suppose if you put a gun to my head, I’d turn down that deal too. The Hawks will have until March and/or all summer to get a decent return on Versteeg. Ham Sandwich has the look of a legitimate top-2 defenseman – not to mention, if he gets shipped, Cam Barker or Brent Sopel become your 4th defenseman for the rest of this season. Just right there, that seems like an awful lot to give up on a player the Hawks would only have for three months.
Then, you throw in the prospect and 1st round pick and all of a sudden, the Hawks would be shrinking their Stanley Cup window to the size of a shattered piece of plexiglass.
No thanks, even if it is for a player like Kovalchuk.
–With Dave Bolland now back in the fold for good, we got our first look at what the lines may look like on Friday night. The Toews line remains the same; Bolland takes Sharp spot at the pivot on the second line; Sharp takes Madden’s spot on the third line, and Madden moves down to the fourth line.
Now before anyone goes ‘Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome’ about Madden moving down to the fourth line, let’s look at what he does well:
- Hellacious back-checker
- Solid face-off man
- Good penalty killer
At this stage of the season, that’s all Madden really gives the Hawks. Of course, it didn’t exactly help/hurt his causes when his best shifts on Wednesday came when he skated with Eager and Kopecky. The move, however, is quite an indictment by Joel Quenneville. With unlimited roster options upon Bolland’s return, he chose to keep his wingers intact and shuffle around his centers, one of whom wasn’t even playing the position at the outset of the season. Bet you didn’t see that one coming.
I wouldn’t get too shook up about it, though; it will probably take two lackluster shifts before Quenneville jumbles everything up all over again.