Thrashers trade Ilya Kovalchuk to New Jersey

By Chris Vivlamore

WASHINGTON — That didn’t take long.
One day after informing Ilya Kovalchuk that he would be traded, the Thrashers on Thursday night sent its franchise player to New Jersey for two players, a prospect and a first-round draft pick.
The Thrashers swapped Kovalchuk and defenseman Anssi Salmela to the Devils for forward Nicklas Bergfors, defenseman Johnny Oduya, center Patrice Cormier and a first-round pick in this year’s draft. The teams also traded second-round picks this year.
Circle April 6th on your calendar. That’s when Kovalchuk returns to Philips Arena in his new uniform.
After months of negotiations on a long-term contract, Kovalchuk, the franchise’s all-time leader in every major offensive category, turned down the team’s final offer that was worth over $100 million. At that point, negotiations were terminated.

“At the end of the day, we felt we did everything in our power,” Thrashers general manager Don Waddell said in an impromptu press briefing in the lobby of the team hotel. “When you start talking over $100 million, it’s a lot of money.
“As we found out, it was all about money. We built a team that Kovy liked. We knew Kovy wanted to stay in Atlanta for the rest of his career if he could. But when you start looking at trying to sign a player to that kind of contract, tell me which one of our young players — [Evander] Kane or [Zach] Bogosian — you want me to trade, because there is no way you can be able to afford these players going forward.”
In return for Kovalchuk, who will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, the Thrashers received:
–Bergfors, 22, ranks fifth among NHL rookies with 27 points (13 goals, 14 assists) and is third in goals. The 5-foot-11, 195-pound right wing ranks fifth on the Devils in points and goals and is sixth in assists.

–Oduya, 28, has appeared in 40 games for the Devils with four points (two goals, two assists). The 6-foot, 200-pound defenseman will represent Sweden at the upcoming Winter Olympics.

–Cormier, 19, had 31 points (11 goals, 20 assists) in 31 games this season with Rimouski and Rouyn-Noranda of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. That was prior to his being suspended for the remainder of the season for throwing a well-publicized elbow into an opposing player. The center served as captain for the Canadian team at the 2010 World Junior Championship.

In trading Kovalchuk, Waddell said the team will be changing its identity.

“This isn’t a knock on Kovy, but Kovy’s been here eight years and we still haven’t won a playoff game,” Waddell said. “This team has to take a different identity. We’ve built around one player for a long time now. It’s time to build this around a team. I think this gives us an opportunity to do it. …
“For fans, it’s tough to swallow, but the bottom line is we need to win hockey games.”

Waddell said he spoke to Kovalchuk only briefly to inform him of his destination.

Jay Grossman, Kovalchuk’s agent, said the player had mixed reactions.

“He is sad to leave Atlanta but it looking forward to the opportunities ahead,” Grossman said.
Once it was clear the team could not re-sign Kovalchuk, Waddell last month began to seek a trade. He said 10 to 12 teams expressed interest in the Atlanta captain with six or seven showing serious interest. Waddell said the Devils entered the picture late, after he scouted a Devils-Kings game last week.

“This fit everything we were looking for,” Waddell said. “We were looking for players to put on our NHL team as we speak. We also were looking to add some assets into the basket. We think we did that very strongly.”

The Thrashers also return Salmela to New Jersey, where he made his NHL debut in 2008-09. The defenseman appeared in 29 games this season with five points (one goal, four assists).
For his part, Kovalchuk knew this was coming.

“Everybody in the locker room can be traded,” Kovalchuk said Thursday morning, before departing with the team for Washington. “I’m in the same position as anybody. If they tell me I can be traded, that’s OK too. I just have to show up and play [until then].

“It’s a business.”

Kovalchuk had been seeking the maximum salary allowed under the collective bargaining agreement, which is 20 percent of the salary cap, or roughly $11.3 million per season. Grossman, confirmed that he had not come off that number during negotiations and was asking for a “lifetime” contract in the 10-to-12-year range.

The Thrashers offered multiple deals, none close to that range. Waddell offered close to the maximum money ($10 million a year) but only in shorter-term contracts (three, five or seven years). The Thrashers’ last offer on the table was for $101 million. But that spanned 12 seasons for an annual average of $8.42 million.

102 comments Add your comment

R. Stroz

February 4th, 2010
9:01 pm

FIRE WADDELL

waffleboy

February 4th, 2010
9:04 pm

Any word on whether Oduya or Bergsfor may play tomorrow night?

Russian

February 4th, 2010
9:05 pm

FIRE THAT IDIOT.
We got nothing to return. Hossa deal was bad, but this deal HORRIBLE. I hope that Don will be fire tomorrow.

Russian

February 4th, 2010
9:06 pm

No I do not think so they are going to play tomorrow. They will be in lines on away games.

Bob

February 4th, 2010
9:16 pm

did I see we swapped 2nd rounders in 2010 with them as well? So we gave up 15/20? spots in the 2nd round, Salmela and Kovy. So we got Colby Armstrong, Esposito, and a late 1st for Kovy? nice job, Don.

kracker

February 4th, 2010
9:17 pm

HF on Patrice Cormier:

Talent Analysis

Cormier has a very intriguing package of skills. At 6′2, 201 lbs, he is well built to play a power-forward type of game, and he’s definitely not afraid to play that way. Cormier has good hockey sense and an above average shot. He forechecks aggressively, throwing his weight around and will power his way to the front of the net with the puck to create offense. He works hard at both ends of the rink and is a contributor on both the power play and penalty kill.

Future

While Cormier may not be the most naturally gifted player, he’s about as well-rounded a prospect as the Devils have coming up right now. He possesses both the offensive skill set and defensive acumen to eventually be a two-way force at the next level. Having just signed his first pro contract this summer, Cormier will look to make an impact in training camp, and unless he finds his way onto the Devils roster, he will return to Rimouski for the 2009-10 season, with an eye towards turning pro in 2010-11.

Me : “…he’s about as well-rounded a prospect as the Devils have coming up right now.” Nice. He’s no Kovalchuk…but I like the part about him playing both ends and his ‘defensive acumen’ :) Imagine, a forward that backchecks!

Curly

February 4th, 2010
9:19 pm

Good trade for a One-way rental player.

Oduya – top 4 defensmen (Olympic Caliber)
Bergfors – Rookie – good NHL ready prospect (1st Rd. pick in 2005)
Cormier – Great prospect – Captain of Team Canada, plays physical game
Plus late 2010 first round pick.

R. Stroz

February 4th, 2010
9:21 pm

Hockeyfan

February 4th, 2010
9:27 pm

I guess Zhitnik wasnt available

StateBird

February 4th, 2010
9:30 pm

This trade speaks volumes on so many fronts. First the obvious ineptitude of management and ownership. I’m surprised that the league would authorize such an imbalanced trade.

It makes me wonder if the 28 other teams all felt that Kovy had so little to offer … but my firm opinion is that the ASG gave DW orders to not bring back any salary to speak of. You don’t think the Flames would have traded Phanuef for Kovy straight up given what they got back from Toronto in their trade?

Does anybody know if we now meet the league minimum salary?

mutton

February 4th, 2010
9:30 pm

Why have the Thrashers made their identity the rehab team for troubled prospects??

Bob

February 4th, 2010
9:34 pm

Nice job, Don. Devils players are NOT built for Anderson’s system, square peg round hole, Sweet Lou gets a Kovy rental and Salmela back in return for his chump change (Lou doesn’t trade great prospects away, Moe).

Oduya will be 5 man here this year and probably “replace” Kubina, right? Bergfors on the 3rd line or let him take Little’s spot?

Randy in Conyers

February 4th, 2010
9:39 pm

I would rather have a few young guns with little name recognition who want to be here rather than an all star who doesn’t want to be here. Just for the record Kovy, better let the valet park your car. That neighborhood in Newark is scary. Oh, and don’t bring lots of cash to the rink. You might want to pick up a Toyota too – the Benz is liable to end up on blocks. I have one wish – play the Devils in the first round of the playoffs. Maybe these newbies will pan out. Oh, and I agree – fire Waddell.

Tim

February 4th, 2010
9:53 pm

If Cormier ever plays in a game as a Thrasher I will never attend another game. The viciousness of the elbows he’s thrown is sickening.

I wanted Kovy out of here… because he doesn’t play hard often enough, because he lied to us and told us he wanted to be here and because he’s f’d his teammates. He turned down a king’s ransom to stay so what are we left to believe.

I wanted him out of here but not getting an impact player in return feels like a swift kick in the nads. Pouring salt on the wound is that punk Cormier being in the deal. When he was suspended by whatever league he was playing in in Canada, I watched the video and was sickened. I hoped that the Devils would cut ties with him… NEVER DID I THINK THEY’D DUMP THEM ON THE THRASHERS! OH MY GOD!

Go see for yourself

http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=patrice+cormier+hit&search_type=&aq=0

sisu

February 4th, 2010
9:53 pm

Patrice Cormier is a punk, why would anyone want him after the elbow to the head and season long suspension????

R. Stroz

February 4th, 2010
9:56 pm

Well, I see some of you are picking up on Cormier.

The Falconer agrees with me, Cormier is a 3rd or 4th liner in the NHL.

Put the Kool-aide down, Waddell was screwed.

Alex

February 4th, 2010
9:56 pm

Kovy will be the best player to ever put on a Thrashers jersey. Of that there is no doubt in my mind

Tim

February 4th, 2010
9:57 pm

A 3rd or 4th liner? He belongs in jail!!!

JR

February 4th, 2010
10:00 pm

the thrashers’ isiah rider, eeeeh?

when one waits to the last minute to pull the trigger, one is not in a position to make a good trade. why all the screwing around? the gm should have made the maximum offer early in the season and when refused, made his move at that time.

again, the only constant in 10 years of less than mediocrity is the general manager.

Brian B.

February 4th, 2010
10:04 pm

Can anyone think of a GM – any GM, in any sport – who would still have his job after a 10 year performance the likes of which we’ve seen from Don Waddell ?? The excuses are over – this is no longer an expansion team. I don’t want to hear about building a winner in a non-traditional hockey market – not when Carolina and Tampa Bay can win Cups. The fact that Waddell is still here can only mean that ASG is comfortable with a 1-playoff-appearance-in-ten-years rate of failure.
I was 12 when the Flames came to Atlanta. I remember games at the Omni. I remember Flames games on WTCG (forerunner to TBS) I fell in love with this sport. It’s a shame to see the way ASG is treating it and this community.

Randy in Conyers

February 4th, 2010
10:08 pm

Cormier is this generations Willie Plett – I say bring him on and have him mark Kovy. Maybe now we’ll call it Black and Blueland.

Brendan

February 4th, 2010
10:10 pm

YGTBFKM. (You Got To Be F’n Kidding Me.)

Yeah, the acronym’s just what you think it is. You just … don’t trade … with Lou Lamoriello. There’s no chance to win. Lou gets Salmela back. But not only that … he gets to swap the #54 pick for Atlanta’s #38. In the end, Lamoriello might actually improve 20 draft positions with his 2nd round pick. That’s astonishing.

Okay, I like Oduya. I do. But I’m not wowed. We just surrendered the franchise leader in games, goals, assists, points and “figure 8’s” … for this??? No, really? For this?? Cormier doesn’t impress me. I like the tenacity. Lord knows, this team’s never had an Ogie Oglethorpe in its midst before. So, who knows? Sean Avery just might get his comeuppance, after all!

And Bergfors is a pending RFA, I believe. Which means? Well, he doesn’t have to sign here. He can try to take us to arbitration and get a figure Atlanta won’t match, making him unrestricted.

Okay, what about the 1st round pick. Folks, we’re talking about pick #20, at best, and #27 at worst. Need I remind anyone what the rule is. Picks 1-5: Can’t miss prospects. Picks 6-10: Very solid, but nothing guaranteed. Picks 11-15: Still very promising, but there many “can’t miss” players here. Picks 16-30: Crapshoot area of the draft. Picks 31 and beyond: “Shot in the dark.” So? So, we’re getting a “crapshoot” pick. Think, “Spin the Vegas wheel and put it on red.” It’s nothing to write home about. The only thing under contract for next season is Oduya.

Yipeeeeeee. Thud. “Fired in the morning.” What? No, it’s not the name of Waddell’s book. It’s the name of the book I’m writing about Waddell. I repeat, it’s called, “Fired in the morning.”

And ready for this part? “Sweet” Lou may not evennnnn be keeping Kovalchuk. That’s right. Lamoriello has every right to trade Kovalchuk, after witnessing incurable figure 8’s as a Devil, by the March 3, 2010 deadline. In other words, if the Los Angeles Kings still want Kovalchuk, they’ll have to trade with Lou. And Lou just might fleece them.

Ready for the worst part? Are you? The “Village Idiot” Doug MacLean, on Rogers SportsNet, tonight threw his hands up in the air and said, “This trade makes NO SENSE. You make a move like this … to save $860,000??? Kovy’s one of the best players in the world. You hang on to him for the rest of the month, waiting for a BETTER deal to materialize. If Atlanta’s MAIN CONCERN was saving $860,000 between now and MArch 3rd, what does that say about the state of their franchise?”

kracker

February 4th, 2010
10:10 pm

Twitter: CraigCustance – Waddell on possibility of Thrashers being buyers at deadline: “No doubt about it.” Nice…they have a lot of money to spend.

Smoothie

February 4th, 2010
10:11 pm

I like Oduya and in fact had him on my FA wish list last summer. If he gels with Kubina or Bogosian, perhaps Kubina can be convinced to stay. I just don’t know about what this does for Hainsey unless the Thrashers coaches sit down with Zach and ask him to swallow his pride and play 3rd line minutes till either Hainsey is traded or Kubina departs. If nothing else, we are better defensively and that says something. Can we get a bit more goal scoring from Colby, Kaner, Pevs, Max and even Slava to at least score 2.8 or 2.9 goals / game? Over the last 16, we’ve only scored 40 goals WITH Ilya. Can’t get much worse can it? I can’t wait to see more of Zach’s bombs from the point on the PP. But who will creat the traffic? That is still an issue.

BlueSpark

February 4th, 2010
10:14 pm

Ungood. Kovy playing Devils hockey? I’ll have to see it with my own eyes. That’s the square peg, round hole. I couldn’t think of a worse team for him.

kracker

February 4th, 2010
10:18 pm

Twitter: BenThrashers – Rick Dudley was high on Cormier. Thought he would be a good fit for Thrashers. He’s expected to make Thrashers next year.

Smoothie

February 4th, 2010
10:19 pm

Brendan – Bergfors is only 22, he’s stuck with us for the forseeable future and would be wise to take the 4 year deal that Waddell will offer him this spring. He can’t be a UFA until he’s 27 so what’s the point of going to arbitration every summer for a series of 1 year deals? Colby’s situation was different because he had more leverage being 26 at the time of his last deal.

I’m not defending Waddell but really what do you expect to get for a rental that most teams can’t afford to sign this summer? Oduya is more than just a solid D-man. He’s an Olympian capable of playing Top 2 pairing minutes. I think he and Bogosian could be a nice tandem behind Kubes and Enstrom. Don’t know if Kubina will re-sign, but then Oduya slides into the Top pairing.

As for Bergfors, despite his current scoring slump (great, join the club here in Atlanta!!) has far more upside than Armstrong ever did and has already scored more goals than EK in 54 games than Christensen has in over his last 82. Already this is a better trade in that regard. Esposito is probably done so Cormier is better in terms of upside. Only time will tell on the # 1 draft pick. Hopefully it will better than Daultan Leveille. And if we’re comparing the two trades, Hossa was technically a better all-around player than Kovy. How many 100 point seasons does Kovy have with a + / – of more than 15? Okay, so Hossa has only 1, but I’m just sayin’.

R. Stroz

February 4th, 2010
10:19 pm

My favorite quote from Waddell above:

“This isn’t a knock on Kovy, but Kovy’s been here eight years and we still haven’t won a playoff game,” Waddell said

Waddell, you’ve been here for ten years without a playoff win. Can we ship your @ss out to, please for the love of hockey in Atlanta.

Mike

February 4th, 2010
10:21 pm

Wow. It cracks me up to read everyone’s comments. Let’s look at the facts (and a little opinion):
1. People say Thrashers should have tried to sign Kovy before this season but two problems with that (a) if they had, Thrashers fans would have been pissed that they did not have one more year of Kovy and (b) Kovy said he wouldn’t sign before the season because he wanted to see where the Thrashers were headed. Either way, DW doesn’t win with the fans.
2. Kovy said he wanted to be a Thrasher for life and be part of the long term success, but turning down a $101 million contract does not demonstrate that. Allowing a cap hit of only $8.4 million would have allowed them to surround Kovy with more quality players, but I guess that wasn’t good enough for Kovy.
3. There are very few Teams that can afford Kovy for next year so the other GMs were not going to give up a kings ransom to get him. The only other team that had the parts the thrashers were looking for was the Kings and they weren’t going to give up their youth for a rental. I don’t blame them and next year, they will have a great season because they didn’t get Kovy. So why is everyone saying DW should have gotten more…does everyone know exactly what the other teams were offering, what they wanted in exchange and how they compared?
4. I believe the Thrashers can now grow around Enstrom, Bogo, Kane and Little. 4 players vs 1 will in the long term be a better solution.

The rest of the season is going to be interesting. Several things can happen..
1. The Thrashers make the playoffs without Kovy and the fans in Atlanta are happy and go support them.
2. The Thrashers fail to make the playoffs, their record gets worse and all of a sudden their first round pick is a lottery pick. What would be the odds of getting the #1 overall pick. Could you add that to the list of assets the Thrashers got in exchange for Kovy?
3. The Thrashers make a surprise run in the playoffs and sign Kovy in the offseason. Not likely to happen, but putting all odds against it to the side, it is still an option.
4. I honestly believe the Team can get better. The other night, Little and others tried to make that extra pass to Kovy for him to shoot. That extra pass wound up killing the play and the Thrashers lost possession. Hopefully they will work better as a Team and spread the opportunities around, keeping the other team on their heels.
5. Maybe the PP gets better because it isn’t always a shot from Kovy on the left side. You can’t tell me the other goalies didn’t cheat a little his way when he had the puck as the odds were pretty good that he was going to shoot.

Kovy will be missed but I don’t think this is the end of the franchise.

Randy in Conyers

February 4th, 2010
10:23 pm

Excellent analysis Brendan. It will be quite interesting to see how this plays out. This franchise desperately needs good news. A run toward the playoffs would be welcome along with consistant play every night. I hope that since the Kovy distraction is now finally over we can get back to hockey. I still think John Anderson is a good coach – now he will get a chance to prove it.

R. Stroz

February 4th, 2010
10:24 pm

So, I wonder what we are going to get for Armstrong and Kubina?

Midfield

February 4th, 2010
10:25 pm

You know, after the initial disbelief of seeing the result of this “trade” I re-read Waddell’s statement. This is either the man who is completely delusional, or the man spitting in the fans faces with a lot of juicy saliva. Wow. I have to give it to him – he has a lot of content for you, people. And those of you who keep towing his line really deserve this.

Mike

February 4th, 2010
10:27 pm

Brendan…MacLean may be throwing his hands up, but there is also the risk of Kovy getting hurt in the Olympics. He is going to play all out for Mother Russia and there will be other guys in the Olympics that don’t have to worry about a NHL career, so if they have a shot at Kovy, they will take it and not worry about the risk of injury. If Kovy comes out of the Olympics healthy, everyone will say the Thrashers should have waited. If he gets hurt, people will say the Thrashers were lucky to trade him when the did. Either way, hindsight will be a bitch and people will be pissed at the Thrashers. You can’t please everyone all the time.

Mary Ann Hossa

February 4th, 2010
10:28 pm

Is it possible to play 4 fourth lines?

Ashe

February 4th, 2010
10:30 pm

Brendan : you trade him before the olympics, on a roster freeze, because if he gets hurts in them, as a UFA you get stuck with him for the rest of the year, and we’d have NOTHING to show for it. we could always trade his rights for a second.

We got a much better deal with this. We have a lot to do, But we now have a legitimate powerplay. and not pass the puck to kovyplay

R. Stroz

February 4th, 2010
10:31 pm

The Thrashers may have a new identity pretty soon…the team too young to drink alcohol.

Mike

February 4th, 2010
10:40 pm

I hope the fans will show off there anger Saturday.

Mike

February 4th, 2010
10:44 pm

Ok..now there are two Mike’s posting. The one that post “I hope the fans will show off there anger Saturday.” is not the same Mike that posted the two earlier comments.

I personally don’t think the fans should show anger on Saturday. Go support the Team. They are only a point or two out of the playoff spot. Go show the other players that we still believe in them. Why should the rest of the Team be punished because Kovy wouldn’t sign a $101 million contract?

c.j.

February 4th, 2010
10:45 pm

I think Waddell should be Obama’s new Hockey Czar.

mad as heck

February 4th, 2010
10:46 pm

this trade marks the beginning of the end of the second ice age in atlanta the trashers will soon follow the flames out of the atl

ben

February 4th, 2010
10:47 pm

I think he’s going to the khl and we got lucky. I think Waddell . . . um . . . you know what? Who cares! D-WAD is nuts.

R. Stroz

February 4th, 2010
10:48 pm

They are also only a point or two out of the lottery pick AGAIN.

I’ll support the team but chant FIRE WADDELL till I can’t talk for a month.

Mike

February 4th, 2010
10:58 pm

Ben Wright tweets: “Waddell says there’s no doubt he could be a buyer at the trade deadline if the right fit is there.”

Nice to hear. We will see what happens. I don’t think the Thrashers are done. Still have extra defensemen, especially once Schubert is back, and an extra goalie. Maybe they try to extend Kubina during the Olympic break or package him with a goalie to get a nice return before the trade deadline.

Would have been hard to be a buyer if you knew Kovy was going to get paid $10 million next year. Probably would have led to more Zhitnik trades as they wouldn’t have been able to take on a lot of payroll at the trade deadline for the final push.

Also, all of you who said that DW should step aside and let Dudley handles things. I read that Dudley was the one who was high on Cormier and insisted he be a part of the deal. So if the Thrashers didn’t get enough, shouldn’t RD be getting some of the blame too since he seemed to have a say in the trade? Or does all the hate only go to DW?

Out

February 4th, 2010
11:03 pm

Come on Bettman. Time to take the keys out of the hands of the most incompetent group of owners ever known to man kind.

Michelle

February 4th, 2010
11:03 pm

Kovalchuk,

I hope you get gang-raped by a group of rabid transvestites on the streets of Newark, contract more STDs than Michael Vick and have to skate bow-legged while remaining scoreless for the rest of your career.

Burn in H ell, Ilya!

Michael

February 4th, 2010
11:05 pm

Fire Waddell, period, we got more for Hossa than Kovy….I am absolutely sick to my stomach, and not only that, they traded him to a team we would have to play if we had a miracle and made the playoffs this year….Playoffs? Playoffs, you talking about Playoffs….Where is Arthur Blank, my god, please buy the Thrashers, Hawks, and Braves….what the hell are you waiting for….Atlanta is a joke….WADDELL is amazing, the best GM ever, I have never seen a better GM, I am so glad he is in Atlanta, he is even a better coach, I mean come on guyyyyyyyyys, leave him alone, he is so intelligent, he gets everything out of his players….(sarcasm)

kracker

February 4th, 2010
11:06 pm

Right, Mike…the team is still in the playoffs hunt. Play hard!!

Personally, I am suspecting that the big drop-off in the level of play in November is due to the turmoil of the team realizing that Kovy was walking. My question is: Why did DW wait so long to make a trade????

R. Stroz

February 4th, 2010
11:10 pm

Waddell says there’s no doubt he could be a buyer at the trade deadline if the right fit is there.”

Read that carefully, It’s full of Waddellspeak, “no doubt he could be a buyer”. Place a heavy emphasis on the word “could.”

Waddell is great at parsing words.

This team will be selling like crazy…Afinogenov, Armstrong, Kubina, and a goalie.

ThrasherTim

February 4th, 2010
11:16 pm

Mike – 10:21pm post – I have to say, one of the most intelligent posts this year – a rationale perspective. While I am really frustrated as a fan to see Kovvy go and concerned about the future of this franchise, I think the offers were fair. If Kovvy really wanted to stay, he would have found a way to sign one of those offers. We need Anderson to hold EVERYONE accountable now on D and for crashing the nets on O. Maybe we can make some other moves to make the playoffs yet.

KLS1

February 4th, 2010
11:16 pm

We will know pretty quick which way this team is going. I wish Kovy well, but sadly I agree with Waddell, the known commodity was that this team was not a playoff contender as it was built.

We’ll see what happens now. JA will be coaching for his job down the stretch.