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Just when they had the Devils figured out…here comes Kovalchuk

The Devils have looked far from overwhelming the last two times they have faced the Leafs. In fact, they were so under-whelming that they gave away a 4-2 lead late in Jersey, and didn’t score any goals earlier this week against Giguerre and the Leafs on “Phaneuf euphoria night” at the ACC.

As Ron Wilson said after the game, the Leafs out-deviled the Devils, in that they gave up very little—long a staple of the team they were facing that night.

Now, in reality, I’d hardly suggest that the Leafs had the Devils figured out. But these Devils are not the Devils of a few years ago. Elias is there, when he’s not hurt, and Langenbrunner is a fine leader but I don’t see Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer, Brian Rafaski or Ken Daneyko. Looking at their roster, they have some nice forwards like young Parise but they don’t scare you offensively.

So in comes Kovalchuk. Now, is there a team where he would be less a “fit” than playing for Jacques Lemaire in New Jersey? I never had the impression that the similarly dynamic Marian Gaborik liked playing for Lemaire in Minnesota, so how this works—even for the rest of this season—will of course be entertaining to watch, if nothing else.

The really stunning thing in all this is that a NHL player (as good as Kovalchuk is, and he is a splendid offensive talent, has been since he joined the league) would turn down 100 million dollars. I can’t understand why the Devils, of all teams, made this move. I can’t imagine the Devils keeping Kovalchuk long-term, and I just don’t see them getting out of the Eastern conference. If this is a rental, they gave up quite a bit of their future

Ironically, it’s often these same kinds of players who, after getting a huge contract, complain in later years that they’re not happy because the team is not doing enough to try and win, and claim the team is not competitive. Well, how can a team pay one player that much, and have much left to build a core around him, especially in a salary-cap era? You can’t really have it both ways.

Nonetheless, Kovalchuk gives them instant pop, though I think the Devils will miss Oduya on the backline. The Thrashers get Bergfors (a young, former first round pick) Cormier from the Quebec junior league and a first-rounder in June. They may have done OK in this deal- better than I thought they could, under the circumstances.

It will certainly be fun to see what transpires tonight, assuming Kovalchuk plays his first game for the Devils against the Leafs.

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